Bernardini - Chapter 04 | eBooks | Non-Fiction

Bernardini - Chapter 04

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The Hope of the Netherlands

Menasseh ben Israel and the Dutch Idea of America

THE OLD TESTAMENT AND THE NEW WORLD combined in a number of curious ways in the culture of the seventeenth-century Dutch Republic. The mixture of the two, if sometimes improbable and somewhat infrequent, can be revealing nevertheless of the setting of religious history and the shape of geographic imagination in the early modern Netherlands. Consider, among the more exotic blends, the tropical Sacrifice of Manoah (1648) by Frans Post, a biblical landscape that stages the old in the new with remarkable effect (Fig. 4.1).1 Against a broad and gently mountainous background, an episode of dramatic devotion takes place. Aman and a woman—Manoah and his wife, as described in Judges 13—kneel before a stone altar on which a kid has just been sacrificed. Suspended within the pillar of gray smoke billowing up from their offering, an angel glances knowingly at the performance below while gesturing grandly toward the heavens above. The angel's baroque movement is mirrored by the theatrical reaction of Manoah, who gazes up in stylized awe. His wife, who wears an antique cloak of blue and a red blouse (costume and colors otherwise associated with the Virgin Mary) hides her head in her hands, less from shame than humility. For she, like her husband, has just learned that she will bear a child, as announced by the miraculously revealed messenger of God.2

The Hope of the NetherlandsMenasseh ben Israel and the Dutch Idea of AmericaBenjamin SchmidtTHE OLD TESTAMENT AND THE NEW WORLD combined in a number of curious ways in the culture of the seventeenth-century Dutch Republic. The mixture of the two, i
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