Page 63 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 40

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empty white space serving as a charged background, which
stresses the black and white stripes of the clothes, are an adapta­
tion of Beardsley’s style to suit Lilien’s purposes.2Beardsley’s
Kiss o fJudas
(1894, fig. 3), an illustration to a story by that name,
was reproduced in
The Early Works o j Aubrey Beardsley,
a book
which Lilien is known to have had in his possession. Beardsley, in
his typically ironical manner, depicted a dwarf (a combination of
an adult’s head with a baby’s naked body) kissing his mother’s
hand, while she is unaware of him. The relationship between the
son and the mother (both as a baby and as an adult) is poisonous;
he is giving her a kiss of death — the kiss of Judas.
Against this background the meaning of Lilien’s picture be­
comes clearer. Abraham’s kiss is not a fatherly farewell; nor is it an
expression of pity
a la
Dore: it is rather a treacherous kiss, a
betrayal of the son’s trust — it is a kiss of Judas. In a sense, Lilien’s
interpretation of the moment is closer to the original biblical story
than Dore’s. For it emphasizes the deceptive element in the rela­
tions of the father and son rather than the sacrifice itself.
We can thus see the complexity of the forces which dominate
this work of art. On the one hand, Lilien refrains from using a
conventional Christian interpretation. Yet, on the other hand,
another Christian meaning, which is new in this context, emerges.
Such an interpretation is typical of the non-orthodox modern
artist dealing with a religious theme: Lilien makes use of the kiss
of Judas, an association which is relevant on the level of human
relationships rather than on the one pertaining to the relation
between Man and God. Thus did the scene go through a process
of deconsecration.
Abel Pann depicted the theme of
th e Sacrifice o f Isaac
in his color
lithograph series of Bible illustrations done during the twenties
(fig. 4). In his pamphlet on biblical illustrations he writes:
I wished to picture the heroes of the Bible as human beings
made of flesh and bone, beings in whose veins blood flows. I
wished the characters of the Bible to be shown as possessing
the passions of human beings just as they are pictured in the
2 As for the iconographical influence of Beardsley on Lilien, see my “Lilien and
Journal ofJewish Art,
vol. VII (1980), pp. 58-70.