12 Jul 2019

Artefacts of Life

Allegra Iafrate. The Long Life of Magical Objects: A Study in the Solomonic Tradition. Pennsylvania State University Press (9 July 2019)

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This book explores a series of powerful artefacts associated with King Solomon via legendary or extracanonical textual sources. Tracing their cultural resonance throughout history, art historian Allegra Iafrate delivers exciting insights into these objects and interrogates the ways in which magic manifests itself at a material level. Each chapter focuses on a different Solomonic object: a ring used to control demons; a mysterious set of bottles that constrain evil forces; an endless knot or seal with similar properties; the shamir, known for its supernatural ability to cut through stone; and a flying carpet that can bring the sitter anywhere he desires.

Taken together, these chapters constitute a study on the reception of the figure of Solomon, but they are also cultural biographies of these magical objects and their inherent aesthetic, morphological, and technical qualities. Thought-provoking and engaging, Iafrate's study shows how ancient magic artefacts live on in our imagination, in items such as Sauron's ring of power, Aladdin's lamp, and the magic carpet. It will appeal to historians of art, religion, folklore, and literature.