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On 23 August 2020, the Jewish Museum Berlin is opening its new core exhibition. Until then the museum will be closed for renovations.

Passage through the Red Sea: A Haggadah Illustration by Jakob Steinhardt

From Our Holdings

They barely escaped with their lives – as is revealed in the expression on Moses' face in this woodcut by Jakob Steinhardt (1887–1968). 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.

Expressionist Illustrations

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

A Synthesis of Tradition and Modernity

Steinhardt's Haggadah was published in 1921 by the Ferdinand Ostertag publishing house in Berlin. Its artistic and historical significance 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.

An Art Book for German Jews

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.


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Jakob Steinhardt

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Woodcut: Jakob Steinhardt, Passage through the Red Sea

Jakob Steinhardt, Passage through the Red Sea; Jewish Museum Berlin, Purchased with funds provided by Stiftung DKLB, photo: Jens Ziehe

Title Passage through the Red Sea
Artist Jakob Steinhardt (1887–1968)
Collection Fine Arts
Year of origin about 1921
Medium Woodcut on machine-made paper
Dimensions 24,1 x 18,3 cm (motif); 33,4 x 24,2 cm (sheet)
Acquisition Purchased with funds provided by Stiftung DKLB

Selected Objects: Fine Arts Collection (11)

Fine Arts Collection

Glance through our art holdings featuring modernist works by Max Liebermann and Lovis Corinth, and commercial graphic art by Louis Oppenheim. The motifs span from biblical and Jewish themes to intimate portraits and Felix Nussbaum’s haunting response to his experience of persecution.

Albertine Mendelssohn-Bartholdy as a Bride by August Theodor Kaselowsky

In this painting, Albertine Heine appears to be a Christian Madonna. She holds the ring near her heart, wearing a white dress with her gaze modestly lowered.

Biblical map of the Holy Land

This "New and Original Biblical Map of the Holy Land" from 1893 was probably never intended to be used by pilgrims or travelers on the ground.

Loneliness by Felix Nussbaum

Nussbaum is nearly unique among artists for his striking examination of his plight as one of the persecuted. He painted it in Brussels, where he was in hiding, in 1942.

The Plesch Family Portrait by Max Slevogt

Max Slevogt created this painting of his friend's family in 1928. It captures the intimacy of family life while fulfilling a group portrait's representative function.

Composition by Otto Freundlich

Otto Freundlich painted this abstract composition in 1938 – one year after another artwork of his had been branded "degenerate art" in Nazi Germany.

Moses Looks upon the Promised Land by Lesser Ury

For artist Lesser Ury, the painting marked the end of a lifelong preoccupation with the figure of Moses. Unfortunately, only a pastel sketch for the painting survives.

S. Adam Advertising Poster by Louis Oppenheim

With this poster by the well-known graphic artist Louis Oppenheim, the S. Adam clothing store advertised its products to male and female sports enthusiasts in 1908.

Passage through the Red Sea by Jakob Steinhardt

This woodcut by Jakob Steinhardt illustrates a 1920s Haggadah. The people barely escaped with their lives—as is revealed in the expression on Moses’ face.

Girl Walking by Elisabeth Wolff

The sculpture by Elisabeth Wolff was a trophy at the first sporting festival held by the Reich Committee for Jewish Youth Associations, in 1934. The artwork has only been entrusted to our collection for safekeeping.

Self-Portrait with Straw Hat by Max Liebermann

In this late self-portrait, the artist presents himself as bourgeois in a dark suit and a Panama hat. Two years after his eightieth birthday, he painted himself here with a touch of resignation and melancholy.

Petermannchen by Lovis Corinth

Lovis Corinth painted this portrait of his student and wife-to-be during a beach vacation on the Baltic coast. It contains a secret romantic message.