Tamar Herzig

Sep 4, 2020

A Convert’s Tale

Art, Crime, and Jewish Apostasy in Renaissance Italy

Harvard University Press 2019

On this episode of New Books in History, Jana Byars talks with Tamar Herzig, Professor of History at Tel Aviv University, the Director of Tel Aviv University’s Morris E Curiel Institute for European Studies, and as the Vice Chairperson of the Historical Society of Israel about her new book, A Convert’s Tale: Art, Crime, and Jewish Apostasy in Renaissance Italy (Harvard University Press). Dr. Herzig took time out from her extraordinarily busy schedule to discuss her exciting new read, detailing the life of a very interesting, possibly tragic, definitely frustrating Italian Jew turned Christian goldsmith who was, on one hand, connected to the wealthiest and most powerful of families in Northern Italy, and, on the other, an inveterate gambler and general lout. Salomone da Sesso, was so good at his job that he was a verifiable celebrity. He had a very complex relationship with, and occasionally ran afoul of, his fellow Jews, so much so that he is charged with sodomy (amongst other things) and coverts to Christianity. As Ercole de Fidelis (Ercole the Faithful) he enjoyed the favor of the likes of Isabella d’Este and Lucrezia Borgia. When he lost their support, however, he fell into poverty. He was forced into exile and died unnoticed. We discuss microhistory, Jewish apostasy, sodomy, and the archival tradition.
Jana Byars is the Academic Director of Netherlands: International Perspectives on Sexuality and Gender.

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