Saturday, November 20, 2010

Isaac Abarbanel Complete with Yarmulke Full White Beard



Believe it or not, the following passage does not come from a Haredi publication. It comes from James Reston Jr.'s Dogs of God: Columbus the Inquisition and the Defeat of the Moors.

"In King Alfonso's court, Don Isaac [Abravanel] was a popular figure, for he was urbane and voluble. He cut a striking figure: round moonface, piercing eyes, sharply defined nose, high forehead crowned with a yarmulke, and full white beard that covered his expansive chest."


The picture we have of Abarbanel is from after his lifetime. Head coverings were not ubiquitous in traditional Jewish circles until modern times even among Ashkenazic Jews, let alone Sephardim who even today do not insist upon it. So it is highly questionable if Abarbanel wore one around the Portuguese court. Furthermore in the 1470s, when Abarbanel was at the court of Alfonso V of Portugal, he was in his thirties. When Alfonso V died in 1481 Abarbanel would have been about 44. One thing about Abarbanel that we can say with confidence, barring him suffering from premature graying, he did not have a full white beard while in Portugal. Perhaps he grew one at the end of his life in Venice.

6 comments:

Mikewind Dale said...

Where's the "following passage"?

Izgad said...

Sorry it is the above passage.

Mikewind Dale said...

Does Reston cite any sources, or did he make up the story based only on the painting? Because even if he (unwisely and uncritically, according to you) accepted that portrait as authentic, I'm not sure where he got "voluble" and "expansive chest."

Izgad said...

No sources. Just his imagination. :)

רמ"א said...

Have you not ever seen someone in his early forties with a full white beard?

Izgad said...

"It would be something of note not to be assumed unless there is specific evidence for it."