New York: “De Profundis. Cain, Where is Abel Thy Brother?” by Arthur Szyk

This important work represents Arthur Szyk’s involvement in raising awareness in the United States of the Holocaust taking place in Europe. On March 9, 1943, the show We Will Never Die, written by Ben Hecht, was performed in Madison Square Garden as part of a memorial pageant calling to rescue the Jews of Europe.   

Within the Latin title De Profundis (from the depths) in the top center of this work is a memento mori, an angel seated above a skeleton holding a scythe (refrence to the grim reaper), and Job crying “Eli Eli” (my god, my god). The title is followed by the sub-title “Cain, where is Abel thy brother?” (Genesis 4:9) which references the Biblical story of the brothes Cain and Abel. After Cain killed his brother he is confronted by God saying that the blood of Abel cries to him from the ground (Genesis 4:10). There are two piles of Jewish people depicted; one in the foreground in which only a couple of the figures seem to be alive, and the second, in the background, next to the ruins of a house. At the back of the pile in the forefront supported by a damaged brick wall, is the Christian character of Jesus wearing a thorn crown and holding the tablets of stone with the ten commandments, to his left, is a religious Jewish man holding a decorated Torah scroll and next to it, a hand of one of the men is pointing at the sub-title. 

The Magnes Collection of Jewish Art and Life was established in 2010 following the transfer of the Judah L. Magnes Museum to the University of California, Berkeley. Its remarkably diverse archive, library and museum holdings include art, objects, texts, music, and historical documents about the Jews in the Global Diaspora and the American West. As one of the world’s preeminent Jewish collections in a university setting, it provides highly innovative and accessible resources to both researchers and the general public. The holdings of The Magnes continue to grow. In 2017, The Magnes established the Taube Family Arthur Szyk Collection, and in 2018 it received the gift of the Roman Vishniac Archive.

B&W ink and graphite drawing of Christ in the midst of dying Jews with the Illunimated words “De Profundis – Cain, Where is Abel Thy Brother.” Signed and dated, lower right “Arthur Szyk. N.Y. 1943.”

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