Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

The Madonna of the Prickly Pear Cactus: Tradition and Innovation in 19th- and 20th-Century Christian Art in the Holy Land

Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

The Madonna of the Prickly Pear Cactus: Tradition and Innovation in 19th- and 20th-Century Christian Art in the Holy Land

Article excerpt

The Madonna of the Prickly Pear Cactus: Tradition and Innovation in 19th- and 20th-century Christian Art in the Holy Land. By Nurith Kenaan-Kedar. (Jerusalem: Yad Ben-Zvi Press. 2010. Pp. 168. $35.00. ISBN 978-9-652-17317-1.)

In The Madonna of the Prickly Pear Cactus, Nurith Kenaan-Kedar provides the reader with a valuable survey of the several specific sites in the Holy Land during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. The reader is presented with three separate Christian traditions within the time frame that the author has chosen: the Armenian Christian, Greek Orthodox Christian, and Latin or Roman Catholic churches. Within each instance, Kenaan-Kedar provides a historical context in which to view the individual works selected as well as a comparison of works of the same theme produced over a period of centuries. In the instance of her discussion of the icon paintings of the Forty Holy Martyrs of Sebaste, the reader is presented wi th an early example of this composition from the fifteenth century as well as a number of later iterations of this theme. It is interesting to see ho w each artist, true to the essential message transmitted in these icons, has responded with the sensibilities of his or her particular time. One can see, as time progresses, the definite influence that Western styles of painting have exerted over the traditional late-Byzantine style. The result is a painting style that is neither completely Eastern nor Western but would aptly represent its place of origin as a crossroads of different cultures. Kenaan-Kedar also directs the reader's attention to the introduction of representations of local buildings or landmarks in the painter's compositions. These additions "ground" the paintings to the specific locale and community of faithful believers, making the biblical stories and the lives of the saints even more vivid to the faithful viewer. …

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