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Accessible Unlicensed Requires Authentication Published by De Gruyter Oldenbourg 2021

The Metamorphoses of the Judensau

Jan Dienstbier


The article follows Bohemian depictions of the Judensau (Jewish sow), a medieval anti-Jewish depiction of Jews suckling a sow. The oldest depiction of this type in Bohemia appears in an architectural sculpture of the late 13th century, on a corbel in the church of St. Bartholomew in Kolín (probably 1280- 1290). In Kolín, the motif follows older models of Gothic of the cathedrals, which can be traced to Saxony. Another Bohemian corbel with the Judensau appears in the chapel of the castle Lipnice (around 1350). It seems that its creator came from Styria. The only late medieval depiction of the Judensau from Bohemia or Moravia, the marginal illumination in the gradual from Litoměřice, highlights the problem of the tension between Utraquist burghers and the Jewish minority in the city. Nevertheless, there are also depictions which must have been inspired by this sort of iconography. Examples are marginal illuminations in Kutná Hora’s choral books created in the 1490s. While we cannot identify the men riding on a sow or kissing a pig’s arse which appear on their pages without doubt as Jews, the relation to anti-Jewish imagery is evident. The final example of carved reliefs from the coffered ceiling in Telč shows the survival of the Judensau theme deep into the Renaissance. One of the panels depicts a man identified as a Jew, who is riding a flying sow. The image should be probably understood as a marginal joke, like the adjacent panel possibly depicting Martin Luther tortured as a sinner by two devils.

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