Thursday, April 2, 2015

Paschal Greetings 2015

Spring is here, or so we are told -  as snow, rain and sleet have been on the menu this past week.  Has there been a mix-up in the Vernal Equinox?  An unannounced delay?

Nevertheless, the spring holidays are definitely on the way, whether you wear Canada Goose or only an Easter bonnet for the festivities.

Nicole Eisenman, Seder, 2010

At the Jewish Museum, Nicole Eisenman's painting, Seder, is on view through August 9th.   This solemn image, based on Norman Rockwell's Freedom from Want, 1942-43, is a bit off-putting in its expressionist colors and emphasis on the red beet-flavored horseradish, an acquired a taste.  Perhaps, one acquires a taste for Eisenman's style in due time as well.  I'm working on it.

Mark Podwal, Spring, 2011

I much prefer Mark Podwal's Spring - and all its iconographic implications: growth, vitality and beauty flourishing from the illuminations of faith (here a menorah sprouts flowers where candles usually cast their glow).

Leonardo da Vici, The Last Supper, late 1490s.

Was the Last Supper a seder?  Questions remain unanswered in this inquiry. Several scholars doubt the occasion was a traditional seder.  Rather, it might have been a meal taken during the week of Passover, as declared in the Gospels of Mathew, Luke and specifically in Mark (14:12): "the first day of the unleavened bread."

Master of Perea, Last Supper, late 15th century, Spain

In Master of Perea's painting of the Last Supper, this anonymous Spanish artist seems to believe the gathering was indeed a seder, for he covers the table with ritual dishes circa 1492 (before or after the expulsion of the Jews?).   Historians often doubt that the seder performed during the life of Christ looked quite this way.  Others point out that the seder, as we know it, requires the Haggadah developed during the Middles Ages.  (The oldest fragments of a Haggadah date to 200 CE/AD and many medieval haggadot survive from the 13th through 15th centuries.)

Here are the sources I consulted:

The seder celebrates the Exodus from Egypt and freedom of all kinds.  We are commanded to recline, rather than sit, like the free people of ancient Greece and Rome - symposium-style.  For the seder is supposed to be like the symposium of yore.

Interestingly, in most paintings of the Last Supper, Jesus and his disciples sit at attention, rigidly arranged in isocephalic harmony to demonstrate the equality among these men.

Leonardo, however, gives us animation - they are responding to Jesus statement that one among them will betray him.  "Are you talking about me?" they gesture.  "Or him?" The tumult seems truly authentic.  Seders are very noisy.

More important to consider: What did this gathering of men eat in 33 CE/AD?  The answer may be in today's

Adi Nes, The Last Supper, 1999

From my perspective: the Paschal Week brings Christianity and Judaism together to savor the first days of the spring and the promise of renewal  - physically, mentally and spiritually.

Happy Passover and Happy Easter -
May you enjoy peace, love and art (Spring Tours begin next week: click on the website link below for our schedule),
Beth New York

aka Beth S. Gersh-Nesic, Ph.D.
New York Arts Exchange

No comments: