Dispatches from the Magnes Working Group on Modern Jewish Culture: An Inquisition Effigy Doll

Posted by Francesco Spagnolo on Friday November 9 2012

The Working Group on Modern Jewish Culture is an exciting new initiative of The Magnes, supported by the Townsend Center for the Humanities at the University of California, Berkeley. The Working Group meets monthly, and benefits from the participation of faculty, Magnes curators, and graduate students in Jewish Studies and other area studies. Its ongoing activities can be followed here.

In the course of the last meeting, students and faculty examined objects that included an Inquisition effigy doll from the island of Majorca (pictured above), Kabbalistic amulets from the Maghreb and Central Europe, and paper material related to Jewish communal affairs in colonial Pakistan.

Inquisition Effigy Doll, Spain (via Morocco), ca. 1401-1500 [71-40]

Inquisition Effigy Doll (Spain, via Morocco). Accession no. 71-40

The research group worked on establishing the provenance of the doll, the age of many of the amulets, or the exact origin of the Jewish communal document from Karachi, using extant Magnes acquisition records and conducting additional research to integrate them. This led our group to discuss methodological approaches to object analysis and, above all, to many exciting and unexpected insights.

Inquisition effigy dolls are discussed in the literature on the Spanish Inquisition in both Spain (Cecil Roth, 1964) and Mexico (Luis R. Corteguera, 2012).

The Magnes Collection also holds original documents from the Inquisition Tribunal in Majorca, as well as the research materials (and research library) of Baruch Braunstein. A small selection from the Braunstein Collection is currently on display, as part of the exhibition Case Study No. 2: The Inventory Project.

Documents about the Inquisition in Mexico are included in the holdings of The Bancroft Library at UC Berkeley.

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