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date: 18 September 2020

Abstract and Keywords

An artwork picturing biblical subject matter is never a straightforward depiction of a scriptural text. It is a visual translation of it, shaped by available models of interpretation, the aesthetic styles and visual cultures of the era, and the cultural contexts of its production, display, circulation, and reception. This chapter analyzes specific examples of American art to showcase the four primary functions performed by biblical subject matter throughout the nation’s history: to deliver moral instruction, engage sociopolitical concerns, assert communal identity, and render cultural criticism. The expansive and varied visual landscape that results testifies to the bible’s centrality in American art history.

Keywords: African Americans, art, folk art, German biblical criticism, Manifest Destiny, Midrash, oral tradition, politics, Revelation, typology

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