Samtida mode eller antisemitism? Demonisering och rasistiska tendenser i medeltidens bildkonst

  • Herman Bengtsson Upplandsmuseet, Uppsala, Sweden


Title: Contemporary Fashion or Anti-Semitism? Demonization and Racism in Medieval Art
In the art and the literature of the Middle Ages, fashion was often used as a means of moralizing about society. An important literary source within this particular context is Sebastian Brant’s Das Narrenschiff (1494). Here the late 15th century male fashion is described as “The Jewish style”. A woodcut illustrating the passage shows a young man with a short jacket, tight hose and an extrava-gant hairdo. Brant seems to have meant that this fashion was invented by the Jews in order to corrupt European society, an opinion that appears to have been rather widespread in Germany, as well as in other countries influenced by its culture. This paper examines representations of prophets and other Old Testament characters in late mediaeval mural paintings in Swedish churches. Many of these are dressed in fashionable clothes that are sometimes rather extreme. This may be considered a reference to the “Jewish style” mentioned by Brant. The main purpose seems to have been to ridicule the Jews and to present them as demonic corruptors of Christian Europe. In some cases the anti-Semitic theme is further emphasized by various degrading symbols associated with the Jewry, like sows, owls, jesters and demonic creatures with horns.

How to Cite
BENGTSSON, Herman. Samtida mode eller antisemitism? Demonisering och rasistiska tendenser i medeltidens bildkonst. ICO Iconographisk Post. Nordisk tidskrift för bildtolkning – Nordic Review of Iconography, [S.l.], n. 3-4, p. 4-41, sep. 2017. ISSN 2323-5586. Available at: <>. Date accessed: 27 oct. 2021.