Inspired by early twentieth-century avant-garde figures like Kazimir Malevich and El Lissitzky, as well as the medieval tradition of Passover Haggadah illumination, contemporary artist Zoya Cherkassky, who was born in Kiev in 1976 but moved to Israel with her family in 1991, began her work on the manuscript after which the present lot was printed during an artist exchange program between Germany and Israel in Aachen in October-November 2001. The highly geometric imagery evokes Russian Suprematism and Constructivism, with Egypt represented by pyramid-like triangles and the four-letter ineffable name of God symbolized by four empty squares. The design also clearly draws on the famous Birds’ Head Haggadah (late thirteenth century), although it subversively inverts the iconography by portraying Jews with the heads of Hasidim (complete with shtrayml, beard, and curled side locks) and the bodies of red-clawed birds. The use of the yellow Star of David, as well as the choice of red as the guiding color throughout, are likely connected with the genocidal anti-Semitism of the Nazis and the socialism of the Soviet Union.
The original Haggadah, executed in ink, gouache, and watercolor on paper, formed part of Cherkassky’s Collectio Judaica exhibit at Rosenfeld Gallery, Tel Aviv, from December 2002 through March 2003, and is now held in the permanent collection of the Israel Museum, Jerusalem. The Haggadah has also been exhibited at the Bernard Shapero Gallery, London, and at the Jewish Museum, New York.
Diana Dallal and Dennis Soloviev-Friedmann (eds.), Zoya Cherkassky: Collectio Judaica (Tel Aviv: Rosenfeld Gallery Ltd., 2004), 58-107.
Samuel Klein, “Radical Storytelling,” Jewish Quarterly 197 (Spring 2005): 12-16.
Ronit Sorek, “Zoya Cherkassky’s Aachen Passover Haggadah: A Subversive Illuminated Manuscript,” trans. Anat Schultz, Ars Judaica 12 (2016): 135-142.
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