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Haggadah -- A Different Night

A Different Night
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The Four Childen in the Haggadah

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Gallery #3:
Art of the Four Children,

These drawings, representing 500 years of The Four Children, are from A Different Night. To see a larger size version of any drawing, with commentary, click on it.

More art of the Four Children:  1526-1923 | 1927-1959 | 1985-present

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Paul Freeman, Four Children with Animals, 1960

Freeman, like Koslowsky and Oren, portrays the Four Children as children in age and dress. Freeman creates an orientalist flavor. Identifying each child with an animal he distinguishes them by personality traits. The wise child is colorfully dressed, and open to the world. Located under a tree with an owl, he is not at all bookish or reclusive even though he holds a book and expounds. The wicked child is identified with the aggressive snake in the Garden of Eden. His body language is closed and defiant and his clothing dark and foreboding in color. The simple child is epitomized by the sheep that follows blindly, while the fourth child sleeps beside a mother goose.

Shraga Weil: Four Children, Four Musicians
(Israel, ©1963 Safrai Gallery)

The Four Children are portrayed as a quartet of musicians, each with his own instrument: the wise, with a shofar (for announcing the coming of the messiah as Elijah is depicted in medieval haggadot); the wicked, with a drum (typical of soldiers marching to war); the simple, with a horn; the one who does not know how to ask, with rattles (typical of a child). The quartet are formed from basic geometric shapes: wise and wicked — circles; simple — square; fourth child— triangle and circle. The wise character is portrayed as a bearded wise man wearing a striped tallit as well as the priestly breast plate. The wicked one is a metal military machine whose armor is his body (head as a helmet with eyes, legs as stove pipes). The simple one is identified with Noah who is called "simple" (tameem), meaning wholly righteous. Above his head is the dove with an olive branch. His striped cloak may recall Joseph's coat, the sign of being chosen. The fourth figure is the only child here (smaller in stature and dressed as a child without shoes).      

Dick Codor (U.S.A., 1981): The Marx Brothers
How better can the Twentieth Century be summed up than by a portrait of Groucho Marx as the "Wise Guy?"

Dan Reisinger: Four Aspects in Each of Us
(Israel, © 1982 Rabbinical Assembly of America)

While the Middle Ages offered a world view with clear types — wise and wicked — the contemporary view is dubious about stereotypes and judgmental categories applied to human beings. Each person is a somewhat chaotic mixture of all the categories. The artist has used a collage of torn colored papers whose outlines are not sharp, which overlap haphazardly and whose colors and nongeometric shapes interact in complex ways. It is probably impossible to label these four collages according to the four categories of the Haggadah.
    Perhaps Reisinger was thinking of the famous quote from Rabbi Yisrael Salanter (19th C, Lithuania and Germany): "Each of us contains all aspects of all four children" — each of us is a unique and changing collage.
   These images are a featured part of the Rabbinical Assembly (U.S.A. Conservative movement) haggadah, "A Feast of Freedom."