Leni Dothan is an artist and twenty-first century ‘Renaissance Woman’ from Israel, who frequently works with themes of religion, gender and art history. Dothan exhibited this piece, Dead End, as part of a recent (2017) exhibition in Washington, DC focusing on Jesus’ journey through Jerusalem to his crucifixion, The Stations of the Cross. Her film formed part of her installation at the First Congregational United Church of Christ and offered an artistic response to the scene in which Jesus meets the ‘daughters of Jerusalem’ who were ‘beating their breasts and mourning for him’ (Luke 23:27). Jesus responded by telling them not to weep over him, but rather to weep over their fate and the fate that awaited their children with the destruction of Jerusalem. The film, which ran on a loop above the altar of the church, records the artist’s bare feet and legs as she walks the Via Dolorosa (The Way of Sorrow) through Jerusalem, the path Jesus is traditionally thought to have taken to his crucifixion at Golgotha. Pilgrims have travelled this route for centuries, either imaginatively in their own churches or cities, with the use of devotional images like the ones produced as part of The Stations of the Cross installations, or by going to Jerusalem to tread the same ground. In Dead End Dothan thus inserts herself into the history of the city as a site of pilgrimage, as well as a site of suffering and redemption. In the context of this exhibition, her work presents a challenge to the overwhelmingly male gaze on the Holy City, reminding us that women too have lived, shaped and dreamed of Jerusalem.
This image, painted between 1470 and 1471 CE by the Flemish painter Hans Memling, belongs to a category of images of Jerusalem which self-consciously use a stylized version of the city as a setting for biblical narratives. Using ‘simultaneous painting’, a style for which he was well-known, Memling has here depicted the entirety of the Passion and resurrection in twenty three scenes. The earliest scene is the entry of Christ into Jerusalem in the top left hand corner. The narrative then unfolds via the Last Supper and the Garden of Gethsemane, also on the left side of the panel, moving towards the trial scene and flagellation in the centre of the painting before shifting outwards via the carrying of the cross and the crucifixion at the top centre-right. The three resurrection scenes all take place in the top right corner of the (comparatively small) panel. There is some suggestion that Memling based the layout of the city and the main sites on the report of Anselm Adornes’ pilgrimage to Jerusalem in 1470. Adornes was a friend of the painting’s patron, Tommaso Portinari, depicted in prayer in the bottom left hand corner of the image. At the time, it was possible to obtain an indulgence by making an imaginary ‘pilgrimage’ to the Holy Land by contemplating a painting such as this one, or Matthew Paris's itinerary map. In this image Jerusalem—translocated to fifteenth-century Bruges—thus functions imaginatively on two levels: it is an imaginary vision of Jerusalem via which imaginary pilgrimages could be made.