The magnificent Szyk Haggadah for Passover; elaborately bound and illustrated


SZYK, Arthur.

Item Number: 106820

Massadah & Alumoth: Jerusalem & Tel Aviv, 1962.

Elaborately bound example of Szyk’s magnum opus. Quarto, publisher’s full velvet cloth with gilt stamping to the spine, front and rear panels, illustrated profusely with full color illumination. With the English translation printed in black and brick red and Hebrew text accompanied by elaborate full color illuminations. Edited by Cecil Roth. In near fine condition. Housed in the original publisher’s three quarters morocco plush-lined clamshell box. A beautiful presentation.

Polish-Jewish artist and book illustrator Arthur Szyk's work is characterized by its rejection of modernism and embrace of the traditions of medieval and renaissance painting, especially illuminated manuscripts from those periods. In the midst of his rising popularity in the 1920s and 30s, his work became increasingly politically engaged, and more so when Hitler took power in Germany in 1933. Szyk started drawing caricatures of Germany's Führer as early as 1933; probably the first was a pencil drawing of Hitler dressed as an ancient Egyptian pharaoh. These drawings anticipated another great series of Szyk's drawings – the Haggadah, which is considered his magnum opus. Szyk illustrated the Haggadah in 48 miniature paintings in the years 1934–1936. The antisemitic politics in Germany led Szyk introduce some contemporary elements to it. For example, he painted the Jewish parable of the Four Sons, in which the "wicked son" was portrayed as a man wearing German clothes, with a Hitler-like moustache and a green Alpine hat. The political intent of the series was even stronger in its original version: he painted upon the red snakes the swastika, the symbol of the Third Reich. However, in the three years leading to its publication, the artist had to agree to many compromises, including painting over the swastikas. It is not clear whether he did it under the pressure from his publisher or from British politicians who pursued the policy of appeasement with to Germany. The Haggadah was at last published in 1940, dedicated it to King George VI and with a translation (of the Hebrew) and commentary by British Jewish historian Cecil Roth. The work was widely acclaimed by critics; according to The Times of London Literary Supplement, it was "worthy to be placed among the most beautiful of books that the hand of man has ever produced".

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