The woodcut figures represent adult types. The wicked "child"
is the soldier dressed in showy clothes with a feather in his ornate
hat. His body language expresses arrogant self-assuredness and almost
bursts the framework of the picture, while his black sword pierces
the woodcut frame at a threatening diagonal. This figure has effectively
read himself out of his people by assimilating to the military culture
of Europe. By contrast, the wise "child" is represented
by an elderly scholar whose body is smaller and weaker than that
of the soldier. The simple child submissively points and gazes downward
while the questionless child is wholy absorbed in the parent's story.
This is the first illustrated Haggadah to arrange pictures of the
four children in one series. The artist is a convert from Christianity
named Abraham ben Jacob. These copper-plate engravings are copied
from various paintings of the Swiss Christian artist Matthaeus Merian.
The wise child is a copy of Hannibal the general of Carthage as
he swears to conquer Rome. The wicked child is simply a Roman soldier.
The simple child is Merian's King Saul as a bashful young man about
to be anointed by the prophet Samuel. The youngest child is another
version of Hannibal. As in many medieval Haggadot the children are
represented by adult types. The wicked stereotype is as usual the
soldier who represents evil in two senses the spilling of
blood and the anti-type to the medieval Jewry with its scholarly
and merchant traditions. The body position of the soldier reflects
dynamism though a lack of stability, while the wise "Hannibal"
stands confidently and commands attention. The simple "Saul"
is closed within himself as he relies on the staff for support.
The child who does not know how to ask is childlike only in the
sense that he is the smallest of the four figures, although his
hands open as if asking a question. TOP
Immigrant Family, Chicago Haggadah, 1879
Here the generation gap between Eastern European immigrants to the
U.S.A. and their assimilated wicked son is foremost. Having adopted
new-fangled American ways, the son smokes, dresses in black clothes
with a modish cut and dances on his tilted chair. He takes the initiative
in attacking his parents with an accusatory finger as if to say
derisively, "what is this ritual for you?" The simple
and the silent children, distinguished only by their hand motions,
are mesmerized by the wicked son who sits at the head of the table
holding forth. The other three figures mother, bearded father
and wise child with kippa are dressed traditionally in pale
white. Their body language bespeaks paralysis, passivity and lack
of communication. The conversation is dominated by the three children
in black, all with uncovered heads and backs turned. The family
is divided culturally and generationally. Only the wise child identifies
with the old ways. TOP
Boxer as Rasha, 1920, illustrated by Lola
The wicked child is a new kind of soldier. The culture of the naked
physique, of sports, of the aggressive boxer is contrasted with
a middle class seated scholar with a tie, glasses and a book. The
passivity and introspection of the intellectual whose head is supported
by his arm reflects the defensive status of traditional Jewish culture,
when contrasted with the rise of American sports and perhaps contemporary
Zionist youth movements that praised the values of the body. For
example, two in a series of great Jewish boxers of this era were
"Battling Levinsky" (nee Barney Lebrowitz, light heavy
weight, 1916-1920) and Al McCoy (see Albert Rudolph, middle weight,
1914-1917) (E.J. 15:305). TOP
Expressionism: Jakob Steinhardt, 1923
The woodcut reflects post World War One "expressionism."
Strong feelings are expressed in nonrealistic distorted facial expressions.
Born in Poland and living through the horrors of war and the breakdown
of traditional society, Steinhardt transforms the Prussian soldier
with his pointed helmet and sword, the hero of his new land
into the wicked type whose face is graced with a bizarre smile.
The wise type is smaller than the soldier, yet holding his book
and pointing heavenward, he tries to reason with the soldier. The
simple type wears a dunce hat and a ridiculous facial expression.
The wise man points aloft to God, while the wicked soldier points
at the simple one, reflecting a derisive attitude.