Istvan Zador, Four Children, Budapest,
Abandoning the medieval types and their identifying props (sword
and book), Zador shows faces differentiated only by their expressions
and the position of their hands. His wise type may even be a woman
the only woman among the illustrations of the Four Children
in any of the Haggadot before the rise of Jewish feminism. Her wisdom
is reflected not in bookishness but in a pained expression of deep
thought concentrated in the forehead. The wicked type raises a cynical
eyebrow as he leans on his fist and half smiles self-contentedly.
The third and fourth figures are more childlike in dress with wrinkleless
foreheads. The open eyes, open mouth and raised eyebrows of the
simple one express interest and astonishment.
Otto Geismar (Germany, 1927)
Geismar uses Jugendstil minimalism with its very simple strong lines
to draw characters by means of their bodily contours. The wise type
is classically engrossed in books as he leans his covered head on
his arm; the wicked type is dynamic, interactive and unbalanced
(as in the Amsterdam and Chicago Haggadot). The outstretched fingers
before the face suggest that he is taunting the wise type. The third
and fourth children are differentiated by their open or closed posture
(hands and feet). TOP
Szyk, Poland, 1939
The four figures epitomize the Jewish cultural and class struggles
in interwar Poland. The wise figure is a delicate intelligent yeshiva
"bochur" (unmarried student) dressed traditionally yet
meticulously. His body language expresses the grace and modesty
of the Torah student ideally understood as an intellectual and religious
aristocrat. In contrast, the wicked figure is a middle-aged bourgeois
Jew dressed to show off his aspirations to Western European modernity.
While the wise student has no props, not even a book, the wicked
figure sports a riding crop, a cigarette with cigarette holder,
and a stylish monocle. He is dressed in a hunting outfit with a
jaunty Tyrollian hat with a feather, an ascot around his neck, silk
gloves and sharp spurs on his leather boots. His stance is self-confident,
self-contained and arrogant in contrast to the simpleton who is
fat and smiling, opening himself to the world trustingly with arms
and legs spread out.
While the simpleton is still traditionally dressed with a small
tallis, the one who does not even know how to ask is a worker dressed
poorly, wearing proletarian boots, without any visible link to Jewish
tradition. His contemplative expression suggests that his direction
in life is not yet determined.
learn more about Arthur Szyk,
download an article on his life from the American Jewish Historical
Society. (This article is in PDF format and will take 2-3 minutes
to download. It opens in Adobe Acrobat Reader.) TOP
Koslowsky, U.S.A., 1944
Koslowsky, like Freeman and Oren below, portray the Four Children
as children in age and dress. Here the wise child (with a bourgeois
tie) takes cover behind his desk and screens the world out with
his hand. He is studious but cloistered. The wicked child dominates
the field because he stands and gestures demonstratively. His riding
crop, a bottle of liquor, cigarettes and an open shirt represent
an angry bohemian revolt. His body language is dismissive and his
neck is twisted uncomfortably. The other children are merely absorbed
in eating. TOP
Zionism Tzvi Livni, Israel, 1955
This Haggadah expresses the newly triumphant Zionist socialist pioneering
spirit of the early years of the State of Israel. Unlike medieval
haggadot, the four children are actually children - young adolescents.
Israeli Zionism placed an inordinate emphasis on the young who would
sweep away the old ways. Therefore the hearts and minds of the adolescent
generation must be won over to ideologically motivated pioneering.
In each drawing the questioning child is juxtaposed to the parental
answer portrayed by the objects displayed.
a. The wise child who still holds the
traditional symbol the book is dressed as a pioneering
member of the Kibbutz. His answer follows roughly the traditional
answer "Tell the wise son the laws of Pesach."
Yet these Jewish symbols may also be understood in a nationalist
spirit: The menorah is the symbol of the State of Israel, the ten
commandments are the moral common denominator of Jews and the Pesach
plate symbolizes national historical memory. Most anomalous is the
lulav which belongs ritually to Sukkot, not Pesach. It may well
symbolize the agricultural revival of the land of Israel so central
to Zionist socialist ideology and so glaringly absent from the traditional
seder. Generally the answer to the wise child represents not a rebellion
against Jewish tradition, but its accommodation to the spirit of
modern Jewish nationalism.
b. The wicked child is the city slicker
"gussied up" with a fancy handkerchief and a tie. His
cynical question "What is all this 'avodah' to you?"
is reinterpreted. While "avodah" in the traditional Haggadah
refers to "services," the "cultic" rites of
the seder, here it is translated as pioneering "agricultural"
work, of making the desert bloom along with the military defense
of the land represented by the towers. Towers and stockades were
built overnight in the illegal settlements erected by the Zionists
in the late 1930's in defiance of the British colonial government.
c. The simple child wonders about mass
immigration to Israel typical of the 1950's when the population
doubled. He is answered by the traditional and the modem Haggadah:
"God brought us out of Egypt, out of the house of bondage."
Zionists felt they were reliving the original exodus.
d. The child who does not know how to ask
is ironically and pointedly the anti-Zionist Orthodox child with
peot (sidelocks). While in the medieval iconography he would have
been the epitome of the wise and observant child, here he is demoted
to "ignorant child," knowing nothing of the flora and
fauna of Eretz Yisrael and of the "book of knowledge"
of Jewish national history and general education. The artist regards
it as a matter not of age or of personality but of indoctrination
that the most traditional child is least able to ask questions about
the changing world around him. TOP
Cultures: Siegmund Forst, Europe & U.S.A., 1958-59
Siegmund Forst introduces his illustrated Haggadah in the following
way: "This . . . old Jewish book . . . speaks of sorrow and
hope . . . It appears in contemporary dress, illustrated by one
who himself has suffered the flames and escaped them" (1941).
The central Jewish cultural conflict in these drawings lies between
the Jewish socialist revolutionary and his elderly ultra-orthodox
Eastern European forebearers.
In the 1958 version, the wise old man lives by
his faith in God and the Torah but his age and his defensive posture
reflect his threatened status in a changing world. He looks worriedly
to Heaven for salvation. The wicked bespectacled, self-hating intellectual
tramples the Torah displaying an adolescent resentment against the
old, dying order. The simpleton dressed in a business suit and the
child without questions wearing his American baseball cap provide
an attentive audience. For Forst, the Jewish revolutionary has displaced
the soldier as the representative of the wicked child. Forst did
not see the socialists as a legitimate continuation of the Jewish
ideal of liberation from bondage that was born in the exodus from
In the 1959 version the wicked revolutionary
who raises his ax against the Ten commandments resembles Leon Trotsky
(Lev Bronshtein), a Marxist leader of the Bolshevik revolution (1917).
The simple child is a sports fan who loves gambling and smoking,
while the fourth child is a passive worker. TOP