The Curious Incident of the Pig in the Haggadah

March 5, 2020 - 4:00pm to 6:00pm

A Talk by Adam S. Cohen, University of Toronto

Sponsored by the Jewish Studies Program and the Department of History of Art and Architecture


For millennia, Jews have gathered on the first night of Passover to recount the Exodus from Egypt, and for the past 700 years the relatively stable text for this paraliturgical service has been written in the haggadah. Beginning in the late thirteenth century, some Jews commissioned luxurious manuscript copies replete with images that serve as supplements and commentaries to the text. In this lecture, I explore two fourteenth-century examples that contain very surprising pictures. The appearance of a pig in a Lombard haggadah and the depiction of an African slave in the famous Sarajevo Haggadah provide an opportunity to explore issues concerning the ways medieval Jews constructed views of their relationship to God, to one another, and to their non-Jewish neighbors.


About the Speaker: Adam S. Cohen received his PhD from The Johns Hopkins University and is Associate Professor of Art History at the University of Toronto, where he has taught since 2003. He has held fellowships from the Duke Center for Jewish Studies, the Israel Institute for Advanced Studies, and the European Institutes for Advanced Studies, and he has been the recipient of grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Social Science and Humanities Research Council of Canada, and the Getty Foundation. His publications on medieval and Jewish manuscript art include The Uta Codex: Art, Philosophy, and Reform in Eleventh-Century Germany and Eye and Mind: Essays in Anglo-Saxon and Early Medieval Art by Robert Deshman. He is currently completing Art and Architecture of the Middle Ages: Exploring a Connected World with Jill Caskey and Linda Safran. His book on the illustrated haggadah, Signs and Wonders: 100 Haggada Masterpieces, was published by Tobey/Koren in 2018.


Sunday, March 8, 11:30 am –12:30 pm: Cohen will also give a lecture at New Light Congregation, Beth Shalom Synagogue (5915 Beacon St.), titled Passover Rituals in the Illustrated Haggadah.


Location and Address

Frick Fine Arts Building, 202