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Passage through the Red Sea

man with staff looking at the sky, terror-stricken

When the Israelites fled from Egypt, God parted the Red Sea so that they could reach the far shore in safety. The waters closed behind them, drowning their pursuers. They barely escaped with their lives—as is revealed in the expression on Moses’ face in this woodcut.

The print comes from a Haggadah, the book read at the Passover seder that recounts the exodus from Egypt. It was made by artist Jakob Steinhardt working on a commission from Erich Göritz, a textiles manufacturer from Chemnitz. Steinhardt was one of the most important Jewish expressionists and is known primarily for his woodcuts.

The artistic and historical significance of Steinhardt’s Haggadah—which was published in 1921 by the Ferdinand Ostertag publishing house in Berlin—rests on the artist’s synthesis of tradition and artistic modernity. Steinhardt took up elements of the well-known Amsterdam Haggadah of 1695, and artist Franziska Baruch, who designed the Hebrew typeface, drew on the Prague Haggadah of 1526.

After publishing the valuable large deluxe edition, Ferdinand Ostertag introduced a compact popular version of the Haggadah in 1923. Although it was better suited for use at the seder table, it only contained the Hebrew text. Like the deluxe edition, it was thus more of an art book than a liturgical work since most German Jews had only a poor command of Hebrew.

Object Details:
Passage through the Red Sea
Jakob Steinhardt (1887–1968)
Woodcut on machine-made paper
24.1 x 18.3 cm (motif); 33.4 x 24.2 cm (sheet)
Purchased with funds from the Stiftung Deutsche Klassenlotterie Berlin

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