Thirty Pieces of Silver

Then one of the twelve, called Judas Iscariot, went unto the chief priests, and said unto them, what will ye give me, and I will deliver him unto you? And they covenanted with him for thirty pieces of silver, and from that time he sought opportunity to betray him.” – Matthew 26:14-16

János Pentelei Molnár The Thirty Pieces of Silver, 1909

János Pentelei Molnár
The Thirty Pieces of Silver, 1909

The Betrayal of Jesus by Judas Iscariot is usually represented through the pivotal moment in which Judas identifies Jesus to the arresting party in the Garden of Gethsemane by kissing him. Yet according to the Gospels, even prior to the Last Supper when Jesus announced to his disciples that one of them would betray him, Judas had already made a deal with the chief priests of the Temple of Jerusalem to hand Jesus over to them in exchange for thirty pieces of silver (Matthew 26:15-21). This sum of money has since become a symbol for compromising one’s morality and principles in exchange for personal gain, inspiring artists throughout time to interpret the biblical account of the Bargain of Judas.

Judas Duccio

Duccio, Bargain of Judas, Maestà, 1308-11

The reverse side of Duccio’s Maestà altarpiece (1308-11) is decorated with twenty-six scenes from the Passion, one of which illustrates the meeting of Judas and the chief priests. Duccio depicts Judas reaching out his hands to accept a small pouch from one of the priests whom he looks directly in the eye to seal their pact. Duccio’s contemporary, Giotto, included the scene in his frescoes for the Arena Chapel (1305).  Like Duccio, Giotto sets the negotiations outside the entrance of the Temple, but places more attention on the figures than the setting.  Judas holds a bag of coins as he speaks to a man in red robes, presumably Caiaphas, the high priest who is said to have organized the plot to kill Jesus (Matthew 26:3-4). A major narrative difference is the inclusion of a dark devilish figure that stands behind Judas, gripping him by the shoulder.  Giotto seems to have been working from the version of the story in the Gospel of Luke, in which it is said that Satan entered into Judas as he communed with the priests, leading him to betray Christ (Luke 22:3).

Judas Giotto

Giotto, Judas’s Betrayal, 1305, Arena Chapel

Although the exact type of coins used in the exchange is not known, it is believed that the payment made to Judas was worth approximately four months’ wages. The number of coins in itself is symbolic since it references passages in the Hebrew Bible. In the Old Testament, thirty pieces of silver is identified as the price of a slave and therefore a considerable sum of money (Exodus 31: 32). In Zechariah 11:12-13, thirty pieces of silver is the amount paid to the Hebrew prophet for his work shepherding a flock. Zechariah is then ordered by God to “cast it unto the potter,” an order which Christian theology suggests is fulfilled after Judas returns the money to the chief priests and they use it to purchase a potter’s field for burying strangers (Matthew 27:3-7).

Rembrandt’s Repentant Judas Returning the Pieces of Silver (1629) shows Judas kneeling before an assembly of Jewish priests after having scattered the coins on the ground before them. Rembrandt’s composition is centered on the coins which are highlighted by a theatrical use of light. The figures in the scene are depicted with dramatic gestures and expressions, revealing the gravity of the situation. Judas returns the money after Jesus’s arrest to atone for his betrayal, but it is believed that this action results in his damnation, since he has taken salvation into his own hands instead of accepting Jesus’s sacrifice on the cross, which, in the Christian faith, is believed to be the only form of salvation.

Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn Repentant, Judas Returning the Pieces of Silver, 1629

In 1989, the English sculptor and installation artist Cornelia Parker created Thirty Pieces of Silver, a work consisting of thousands of silver objects that were ceremoniously crushed by a steamroller at the artist’s request. They were then arranged into thirty disc-shaped groups and hung a foot off the floor by wires. The title of the installation is intended to be both a literal description and a reference to the Bargain of Judas—“it alludes to money, to betrayal, to death and resurrection,” says the artist. The pieces of silver in Parker’s work were originally valuable household objects with practical functions, but they are rendered useless by “the destructive powers of the world.” Cornelia Parker embraces the heavy symbolism of the thirty pieces of silver free from a direct narrative, but the connotations with the Bargain of Judas are ever-present.

- D.L. for MOBIA

Fountains of the Deep: Visions of Noah and the Flood

Coinciding with the release of his new feature film, Noah, director Darren Aronofsky presents an exhibition of contemporary art inspired by the biblical story of Noah and the Flood. Fountains of the Deep includes work from 50 internationally recognized artists and is a collaborative effort between Aronofsky and independent curator Dominic Teja Sidhu. The filmmaker personally chose each work of art on display and commissioned many of the artists to create original work specifically for the exhibition: “While writing the script for Noah, I wondered how my favorite artists would interpret the iconic text. So I decided to ask a few of them to return to Genesis and create an image of their own.”

Identifying the story of Noah as humanity’s first apocalyptic tale seems to be the central premise of this exhibition. Genesis 6-9 depicts a world very different from the one we know, and yet its themes of survival, redemption, and new beginnings are entirely familiar. The Creator turns his back on his creation and vows to wipe mankind off the face of the Earth. Yet God has mercy on Noah and instructs him to build an ark that will house himself, his family, and two of every animal that lives on land. Noah does as God commands and though the Earth is flooded by rain for forty days and forty nights, God delivers him from this terrible fate. Noah and his sons are then blessed by God and ordered to “be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the Earth” (Genesis 9:1).  It is a story that is grim and miraculous in the most extreme ways and one which remains exceedingly influential on the arts.

Doug and Mike Starn, Bbú Juju painting MV4

Doug and Mike Starn, Bbú Juju painting MV4

Fountains of the Deep encompasses a great range of genres and media, from painting, sculpture, and photography to commercial illustration and graffiti. In David Scher’s grayscale painting Noah Noah a boat sits stranded atop an island of debris. The image depicts a cloudy, melancholy world in which humanity is left to deal with the consequences of a natural disaster. The work by artists (and identical twin brothers) Doug and Mike Starn titled Bbú Juju painting MV4 gives off a sense of both tragedy and hope. On one hand, the Starn brothers have used bamboo and rope to construct a jumbled object that appears to be in a state of wreckage. Then again, the assembled bamboo resembles a makeshift raft, a symbol for human resourcefulness and survival.

James Jean, Noah

James Jean, Noah

The lower-level gallery is filled with work that is perhaps more unexpected considering the Old Testament-derived theme of the show. Kagen Sound, a woodworker from Colorado known for his Japanese-style secret boxes, designed a box from 59,003 tiny wooden cubes measuring exactly one cubit, the unit of measurement designated by God to be used in the construction of the ark (Genesis 6:15). Commercial artist James Jean interprets the figure of Noah as a sort of allegory of human frailty; the exposed body bleeding into the ocean is painted in the bright, swirling colors for which the Taiwanese painter is known. A bold graphic style is also employed by graffiti duo FAILE in Never Before, Never Again, a collage of images and text referencing both the environmental and emotional impact of the Flood.

Thomas Thiemeyer, Building the Ark

Thomas Thiemeyer, Building the Ark

Thomas Thiemeyer provides viewers with a very cinematic imagining of the Building of the Ark, which perhaps best anticipates Aronofsky’s film. Thiemeyer is a German author and illustrator whose works have a strong narrative quality and a highly polished fantastical look to them. This particular painting places the ark in sort of sci-fi landscape—a wild world populated by giants and other mythical creatures. The epic nature of the scene reminds us of the monumental impact the story of Noah has had on our culture and how it continues to inspire the visual arts.

Noah lower level 2

Fountains of the Deep is on view at 462 West Broadway through Saturday, March 29.

Noah will premiere in theaters worldwide on Friday, March 28.

- D.L. for MOBIA

Spotlight: St. Thomas Becket

TB1

Detail from Bay 18 window, early 13th c.
stained glass
Chartres Cathedral, France

When Henry VIII of England carried out the Dissolution of the Monasteries one of his objectives was to erase one particular name from history: Thomas Becket. In 1538 the shrine housing the saint’s bones, which had been the central attraction for pilgrims to Canterbury since 1220, was destroyed on orders from the king. But Henry’s efforts were in vain; Becket remains a legendary figure in English history and his image appears in countless artworks from the twelfth century onwards. Becket, after all, was not merely a local martyr; the political circumstances and gruesome details of his murder at Canterbury Cathedral turned him into an international celebrity the likes of which had not been previously seen.

Who Was Thomas Becket?

Thomas Becket was born in London in 1120 to a prosperous Norman family who provided him with the privilege of a formal education. Making a living as a clerk, he acquired a position in the household of Theobald of Bec, Archbishop of Canterbury, and made the acquaintance of Henry II, whom he quickly befriended. The king would go on to appoint Becket as his Lord Chancellor and after Theobald’s passing, to the seat of Archbishop of Canterbury. King Henry expected that Thomas would continue to act as his political servant, but as archbishop Becket adopted an austere lifestyle and a new ideology that placed the interests of the Church before those of the State. His refusal to compromise with Henry made Becket an enemy of the crown.

Pilgrim’s Badge with head of Saint Thomas à Becket, 15th c.
Canterbury, England
Metropolitan Museum of Art

On the fifth day of Christmas, 1170, Becket was in the middle of leading Vespers when through the doors of Canterbury Cathedral entered four of Henry’s knights. Believing themselves to be acting according to the king’s wishes, the men approached the altar, drew their swords and killed the archbishop. In the aftermath of the event, Henry began a campaign of public penance culminating in an act before Becket’s tomb, where he confessed his sins and then allowed each bishop present to give him five blows from a rod, followed by granting each of the 80 monks on site three blows. Becket was canonized as a saint in 1173 after Henry’s reconciliation with the papacy over the murder of one of their clergymen. His cult spread throughout Europe quickly and the consequences of this were promptly seen in the arts.

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Reliquary Casket with Scenes from the Martyrdom of Saint Thomas Becket, ca. 1173–80
English or German
Metropolitan Museum of Art

Medieval Celebrity

It is difficult for us to evaluate the horror with which the news of Thomas Becket’s murder was received, but public fascination with the event was strong enough for at least ten different biographies on Thomas to be written by different authors before the end of the twelfth century. Comparisons have been made in recent years between Becket’s martyrdom and the assassinations of Abraham Lincoln in 1865 and John F. Kennedy in 1963, two shocking episodes in American history which we actively study and commemorate today. The popularity of Becket’s shrine at Canterbury was entirely dependent upon his renown abroad, and for centuries he was a model of faith and fearlessness to Christians throughout the European continent.

There are some practical means by which the story of Becket’s martyrdom reached the Christian world beyond England. Henry II, the great-grandson of William the Conqueror, was a Norman ruler—one of many who had assumed regal power throughout Europe—and therefore had strong ties to other courts. His three eldest sons held control over the territories of western France.  His daughters were married off to princes in Germany, Spain, France, and Sicily. With all of these royal connections throughout Europe, the western world was more than prepared to venerate the martyr with beautiful images and luxurious objects.

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Icon of St. Thomas Becket, late 12th c.
mosaic
Monreale Cathedral, Sicily

The earliest known icon of Thomas Becket is a mosaic located in Monreale Cathedral in Sicily. It’s a rare image, considering it only portrays the saint himself and not a hint of his background story, which is so important to the cult of Becket. The martyrdom itself is depicted in some of the finest medieval metal works to come out of France—reliquary caskets from the Limoges region. About fifty of these are still around today and can be found in collections ranging from the Victoria and Albert Museum in London to the Louvre in Paris. At Chartres Cathedral, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, a stained glass window in the south east ambulatory illustrates the entire story from Becket’s consecration as archbishop to his relics healing the sick after his death. Reverence for the saint quickly reached as far as Scandinavia, where English clergymen working in the church of Lyngsjö, Sweden, commissioned a baptismal font made of sandstone that depicts the tale of his martyrdom.

Becket would also go on to make a significant impact on our literary tradition—the most influential work to be written in vernacular English in the fourteenth century, Geoffrey Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales,  is staged around a group of pilgrims on a journey from Southwark in London to the shrine of St. Thomas at Canterbury Cathedral.

Baptismal font, ca. 1200
Church of Lyngsjo, Sweden

Becket in New York

Although the vast majority of artwork related to Becket permanently resides in Europe (much of it is attached to ecclesiastic buildings) The Metropolitan Museum of Art houses a number of small works of art which bear his image.  Among these are a silver reliquary box with scenes from the martyrdom, a pilgrim’s badge with the head of St. Thomas, and a highly detailed ivory plaque from the fifteenth century showing the murder in the Cathedral.

An alabaster panel depicting St. Thomas’s consecration as archbishop will be exhibited at MOBIA in our upcoming exhibition, Object of Devotion: Medieval English Alabaster Sculpture from the Victoria and Albert Museum.  One of several fifteenth-century alabaster panels centered on his life that survive, it still bears traces of the paint that brought the scene of St. Thomas’s triumph into vibrant color.  The work will be on view from this Friday, March 7, through June 8.

Saint Thomas Becket Consecrated as Archbishop, c. 1460-1500
Courtesy of the Victoria and Albert Museum

In Today’s World

Several modern literary works based on the life of Thomas Becket have been written. The twentieth century brought us T. S. Eliot’s play Murder in the Cathedral and Jean Anouilh’s drama Becket. Anouilh’s play was turned into the classic film starring Peter O’Toole as Henry II and Richard Burton as Becket. Ken Follett’s popular 1989 novel The Pillars of the TB6Earth features the murder of Thomas Becket in one of the last scenes. More recently, Paul Webb’s play Four Nights in Knaresborough, which premiered in 1999, recounts the aftermath of the assassination by four knights making “the worst career choice in history.” Webb has adapted his play for the screen and sold the rights to The Weinstein Company, which means we could be seeing Becket on the big screen again very soon!

- D.L. for MOBIA

John Bradford’s “Biblical Space: Recent Works”

Biblical Space: Recent Works, currently on view at the Bowery Gallery in Chelsea, features artist John Bradford’s latest depictions of biblical narratives in a series of paintings that blur the line between the figurative and the abstract.  Bradford, a founding member of the Bowery Gallery, has addressed the stories of the Old Testament in his work for over 30 years. In his most recent paintings, the artist continues his self-assigned task of illustrating the imagery of the Old Testament in a manner that communicates both the content of the text and the imaginary visual space in which these stories play out.  In the artist’s words, his reimagining of these scenes which artists through the centuries have interpreted in their own styles, aims to reveal how “the modernity of the West owes a fundamental debt to Judaism.”

It may appear at first when looking at these large canvases that Bradford’s intention is a literal depiction of the biblical textEach composition is staged in a manner similar to the history paintings from European academies that hang on the walls of our museums.  Yet Bradford’s modernist handling of paint takes the pictures a step away from the natural world into that which cannot be so easily discerned.  It is an approach which cleverly reckons with our cultural understanding of the stories of the Hebrew Bible, which we envision to take place in our world, but in a time and place far removed from us. The spare text of the Old Testament sets strict boundaries and yet leaves the mind to construct the visual details of the narrative on its own.

“When attempting to paint Old Testament narratives with any degree of relevance, it is necessary to represent both a naturalistic space deep enough for nation building to unfold, but also to represent the flat, austere, discontinuous space of Biblical structure in which yearning, corruption, righteousness and redemption are at play. My solution to this duality is to allow the different spaces to legislate for themselves while submitting myself to the sovereign laws of painting, which celebrate the distinctions, separations, and boundaries within a unitary rectangular format.” – John Bradford

Bradford’s paintings build up from broad fields of color to lively figures rendered by simple

Korah's Rebellion

Korah’s Rebellion

brushstrokes. He experiments with texture by painting in layers and using a gloss to thicken the pigment in places where he would like there to be an added element of dimension. Sometimes his glazes thin out, but at times they are thick enough to scratch away and create a relief.  One painting in particular, Korah’s Rebellion, shows the effect the painter achieves when a canvas is worked on considerably.

Korah’s Rebellion is composed like a landscape, framed by trees and populated by figures reduced to a role secondary to the space. Numbers 16 tells the story of when the envious Korah rose against his cousins, Moses and Aaron, and challenged their authority, which was granted to them by God.  Moses tried to quell the rebellion, but when Korah and his allies did not budge, Moses prayed to God that their wicked ways would be known to the world. The next day, when the two parties had agreed to meet before the tabernacle, God ordered the Israelites to separate themselves from Korah as he and his men met the consequences of their revolt:

And the earth opened her mouth, and swallowed them up, and their houses, and all the men that appertained unto Korah, and all their goods. They, and all that appertained to them, went down alive into the pit, and the earth closed upon them: and they perished from among the congregation (Numbers 16: 32-33)

The Garden of Eden

The Garden of Eden

Bradford illustrates the scene in a manner that makes it recognizable to a viewer familiar with the story, but does not ground it in reality by creating the illusion of real space or naturalistic figures. In a more minimally designed work like The Garden of Eden we can see how effective the ambiguity of the world of the painting is in conveying the significance of the narrative. The figures of Adam and Eve are present at the crucial moment when the serpent will deceive them, but the drama of the scene is not heightened by emotional expressions or effects of light; it is the simple act of Eve stretching her arms to reach for the fruit above her that clarifies the importance of what is taking place. The saturated green of the background stands in contrast to the muted colors of the rest of the artwork in the room, showing the perceptible difference between the human world before and after the Fall of Man.

Biblical Space: Recent Works is on view at the Bowery Gallery (530 West 25th Street) through February 22, 2014.

- D.L. for MOBIA

The Golden Calf

The Golden Calf

Statuesque: Jean-Léon Gerôme’s “Bathsheba”

Late in his career, not long before his death, Jean-Léon Gerôme (1824-1904) made the plaster sculpture of the biblical queen Bathsheba exhibited at MOBIA in Sacred Visions: Nineteenth-Century Biblical Art from the Dahesh Museum Collection. With both feet firmly

Jean-Léon Gérôme, Bathsheba (ca.1895) Plaster, 33 1/16 inches Dahesh Museum of Art, New York. 2002.17

Jean-Léon Gérôme,
Bathsheba (ca.1895)
Plaster, 33 1/16 inches
Dahesh Museum of Art, New York. 2002.17

on the ground next to a water jug, the beautiful woman twists her body as she reaches back to scrub her left shoulder with the sponge in her right hand. Traces of the paint which Gerôme used to embellish this sculpture are especially noticeable in Bathsheba’s hair and on the water jug at her feet; nearby, along the base, Gerôme carved his signature “J L Gerôme.” This piece, made in 1895, reprises several themes which preoccupied Gerôme throughout his career, spurring him to revisit certain subjects over and over again.

Gerôme’s artistic training as a young man contributed to his lifelong interest in repeating representations of a figure such as the female nude. As a student in the French Academy of Fine Arts, Gerôme was expected to spend significant amounts of time making sketches based on nude models. A young artist’s selection of these sketches was a tremendously important resource when executing a large-scale composition. Academic painters often took the best parts of their sketches from live models and traced them onto new sketches. All the time spent observing nude models and reworking sketches frequently culminated in a painting to be shown at the annual Salon. Gerôme was particularly successful at the Salon; at the age of 23, he was made famous by critics of the 1847 Salon who lauded his Classical painting of a young Greek couple.

It wasn’t until the 1870s that Gerôme turned seriously to sculpture and began to exhibit plaster originals like the Bathsheba at the Salon and at other major exhibitions. Gerôme was especially interested in polychrome sculptures, painted with bright colors following the tradition of ancient Greek and Roman sculptures, which were colored in their original state. Many critics objected to this practice, considering it garish, but Gerôme seemed intent on marrying painting to sculpture, creating idiosyncratic pieces such as the portrait of the actress Sarah Bernhardt.

Jean-Léon Gérôme (1824-1904), Sarah Bernhardt, around 1895, tinted marble bust, 69 x 41 x 29 cm, Paris, musée d’Orsay.

Jean-Léon Gérôme, Sarah Bernhardt, (ca. 1895)

Gerôme’s polychrome Bathsheba follows in the footsteps of Gerôme’s 1889 painting of the same subject. Bathsheba, shown with her back to the viewer as she bathes on a terrace, appears in a pose strikingly similar to that of the 1895 sculpture. The voyeuristic  point  of view alludes to the position of King David, who happens upon Bathsheba while walking on the roof of his palace. In the Bible, David takes Bathsheba as his wife after seeing her bathing on the terrace. Gerôme presents the moment when David notices her, while she remains unaware of his unsolicited gaze. This arrangement resonates with contemporary images of Turkish baths and harems, which fascinated nineteenth-century French painters like Gerôme’s teacher Jean-Auguste Dominique Ingres. The traditional image of the female nude was paired with the trappings of the exoticism and luxury which Western artists in the nineteenth century associated with the Orient.

Gerôme’s Bathsheba relates to a recurring nude figure different (in origin) from the Orientalist female body on voyeuristic display, but similar in its implications. In the early 1890s, Gerôme made at least three paintings of Pygmalion, the mythological Greek sculptor, and his beloved sculpture of Galatea. According to Ovid’s Metamorphoses, the goddess of love, Venus, brought Pygmalion’s sculpture to life, as he had fallen in love with Galatea and longed for a wife as beautiful as she. Gerôme’s oil paintings are all based on his polychrome marble sculpture of the same subject, showing the moment when Galatea comes to life. Each time Gerôme depicted Pygmalion embracing Galatea, he represented her as mostly marble. Only the top half of her body, which twists to meet Pygmalion’s kiss, is rosy and alive; her legs remain white and stiff, still a sculpture attached to its base. The resemblance to Bathsheba’s pose, with both feet planted on the base of the sculpture while the top of her body turns elegantly, is made all the more startling by Gerôme’s signature on the base of the Galatea sculpture, done in exactly the same way as his signature on Bathsheba.

Jean-Léon Gérôme, Pygmalion and Galatea (ca. 1890)

Jean-Léon Gérôme, Pygmalion and Galatea (ca. 1890)

Galatea’s pose harkens back to a painting which Gerôme completed in 1861 and which became one of his most famous pieces, Phryne Revealed Before the Aeropagus. In it, Gerôme shows the moment when the courtesan Phryne is exposed, nude, before the high court the Aeropagus in the midst of the trial charging her with profanity. According to the story, the elders of the court were so moved by the beauty of her body that they acquitted her of all charges. Gerôme’s Galatea and Bathsheba both relate to this earlier Gerôme figure, whose physical beauty holds such sway over men as she stands before them on display. In the Met’s Pygmalion and Galatea, the elbow-to-elbow diagonal created by Galatea’s body as she leans over echoes the pose of the uneasy Phryne; both women’s faces are obscured to the viewer, further emphasizing the voyeurism tied up in their respective stories. The plaster Bathsheba, too, represents a beautiful woman on display, unaware—with her eyes closed—of the effect she may be having upon the viewer.

Jean-Léon Gerome, Phryne Revealed Before the Aeropagus (1861)

Jean-Léon Gerome, Phryne Revealed Before the Aeropagus (1861)

Above all, Gerôme’s Phryne, Galatea, and Bathsheba all speak to Gerôme’s in-depth ruminations on art. Around the time he was working on the Pygmalion and Galatea pieces, Gerôme created a painting called Working in Marble, in which he shows himself working on a marble sculpture based on a live nude model. Clearly visible in the background, on the wall of his studio, is a reproduction of his very own Pygmalion and Galatea. Simultaneously, Gerôme is offering the female nude as a living model, a sculpture, and a painting. Three years later, in 1893, Gerôme completed a painting called Painting Breathes Life into Sculpture, of a young woman painting small female statues, in the style of Gerôme’s own sculptures. (In fact, one of his polychrome sculptures of Corinth is visible in the center background).

Gerôme had a long and fruitful career, completing over 550 paintings and 75 sculptures, achieving financial success at home and abroad and entering into American collections as early as the 1860s. Throughout his life, Gerôme returned to his fascination with the female nude as a vehicle for thinking about art itself, specifically through the figures of Phryne, Galatea, and Bathsheba. The polychromed plaster Bathsheba in particular brings together Gerôme’s interest in sculpture and his faith in the animating power of painting. The stories of each of these women, who were gazed at and desired by men, gave Gerôme an academic lens through which he could scrutinize the nude female body. By extending the awe-struck gaze of the original (male) viewer into the realm of painting and sculpture, Gerôme offered his viewers the opportunity to see the female body on display in the name of art.

- I.L. for MOBIA

Sacred Visions closes Sunday, January 19.  Come see one of “New York’s best museum exhibitions of 2013″ while you still have the chance!

Photo by Gina Fuentes Walker

Photo by Gina Fuentes Walker

The Psalms Break a Record

On November 26 a modest-looking book of some 300 pages sold for 12.2 million dollars, the highest price ever paid for a printed book. Known as the Bay Psalm Book, this metrical translation of the Psalter is the first book printed in what was to become the United States of America and the first literary work composed in the British colonies. It was printed in 1640 by Stephen Daye (or Day), in Cambridge (Massachusetts) on the first press the colonies ever had.

Providing metrical translations of the Psalms allowed the Protestant churches to promote communal singing, stimulate the participation of their congregations in the act of worship, and strengthen their sense of unity. In England such a translation was included in the Book of Common Prayer since 1562 and was readily available on the market. The colonists, however, considered that it was not a faithful rendition of the original Hebrew text and decided to replace it with a new version that aimed at “fidelity rather than poetry.” Some of the best American scholars worked on the project, among them Richard Mather and John Eliot, the future translator of the Bible into Algonquin.

Stephen Daye printed 1,700 copies, approximately one copy per eight colonists, as remarked a modern researcher. Only 11 copies survive and the last time one was sold was in 1947.

- L.L. for MOBIA

MOBIA Friends

We are excited to announce the launch of a new membership program called MOBIA Friends, which is available to all for free. As a museum committed to presenting quality exhibitions in a focused, intimate setting, and serving as diverse an audience as possible, we prioritize projects and programs that will enrich the lives of our visitors. Thanks to our free admission policy we can welcome all to enjoy our inventive exhibitions. The MOBIA Friends program is our newest means of connecting with our visitors and acknowledging how important you all are to the Museum.

Signing up for MOBIA Friends is easy. Simply visit www.mobia.org/friends and enter your email address in the space provided. When you sign up, you will have the option of choosing which particular programs or events you would most like to hear about. It takes just a minute of your time to make sure you are always in the know!

MOBIA Friends receive our e-newsletter twice a month, with all the information about what’s scheduled and what’s new at the Museum. Friends also receive a 10% discount on-site at the MOBIA Store. This is especially exciting as the Store now features more merchandise than ever before, making it a fun place to shop for gifts, art books, and more. We also host a MOBIA Friends Day on the first Saturday of each new exhibition, where refreshments and special tours will be available to any Friends who visit.

We hope you can become a MOBIA Friend today!

Photo by Matt Munson