Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
September 14, 2009
Museum aims to inspire appreciation of the Bible
CNS PHOTO | BOB ROLLER
A sculpture titled Prodigal Son by Karen Swenholt also in the Museum of Biblical Art in New York.
"One of the things we try to do is show the extraordinary variety" of biblical art, Heller said. "I think everybody thinks they know what biblical art is but they don't know for sure."
People "usually have a definition but it is usually narrow," and the museum wants to help its visitors "stretch the definition," she added.
The museum's current exhibit - Scripture for the Eyes: Bible Illustration in Netherlandish Prints of the 16th Century - really "illustrates some of the most important connections that this museum is trying to make," she said.
"It brings together two very important movements - in the history of art and the history of religion."
In the 16th century, the Netherlands was one of "the most prolific, exciting centres for printed images," Heller said. That was happening at the same time as the religious turmoil of the Reformation.
"It is a period and a place in which there is this virtual explosion of printmaking and the dissemination of visual images," making them accessible to the masses, said James Clifton, who helped to write a companion book for the exhibit.
This profusion of illustrated Bibles, devotional books and prints allowed ordinary people, not just the rich and educated classes, to buy such items to use in their homes for their own devotional purposes, he said.
The museum has a place in ecumenical dialogue, said Father Paul Tabor, a New York priest who is the museum's director of exhibitions.
Even as religious factions can so often disagree in today's world, "one of the important doorways into that discussion and mutual respect of religions is through the arts," he said.
"A person is led into a deeper appreciation of the religion that inspired those artworks."
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