Dreaming of Michelangelo is the first book-length study to explore the intellectual and cultural affinities between modern Judaism and the life and work of Michelangelo Buonarroti. It argues that Jewish intellectuals found themselves in the image of Michelangelo as an unrequited lover whose work expressed loneliness and a longing for humanity's response. The modern Jewish imagination thus became consciously idolatrous. Writers brought to life-literally-Michelangelo's sculptures, seeing in them their own worldly and emotional struggles. The Moses statue in particular became an archetype of Jewish liberation politics as well as a central focus of Jewish aesthetics. And such affinities extended beyond sculpture: Jewish visitors to the Sistine Chapel reinterpreted the ceiling as a manifesto of prophetic socialism, devoid of its Christian elements. According to Biemann, the phemen of Jewish self-recognition in Michelangelo's work offered an alternative to the failed promises of the German enlightenment. Through this unexpected discovery, he rethinks German Jewish history and its connections to Italy, the Mediterranean, and the art of the Renaissance.
Asher D. Biemann is Associate Professor of Religious Studies at the University of Virginia. Stanford has also published his Inventing New Beginnings (2009).