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Obj. ID: 37181
Modern Jewish Art
  Self Portrait with Muse and Death, Vitebsk, 1924 (1925?)

© Wikimedia Commons, Public Domain, Photographer: Unknown,

This text was prepared by Alec Mishory:

Yehuda Pen was born in Lithuania and lived most of his life in Vitebsk in the Belarusse. In 1881 he audited painting classes at the Imperial Art Academy in Saint Petersburg. In 1897 he founded a Drawing and Painting School in Vitebsk. Most of his students were Jews, including Marc Chagall, El Lissitzky and Ossip Zadkin. Pen painted mainly portraits of Jewish artisans, genre paintings of Jewish life and some landscapes.

Seated in front of his easel, holding a palette and brushes in his hands, the elderly looking artist makes contact with our eyes, as if telling us who he is. The array of portraits and visual personifications surrounding his figure stand for his models of inspiration and spiritual guides. Such a gathering is typical of a traditional theme expressed by late 19th century European artists. On the left, Venus pudica (Venus Medici), standing for Western Classicism; on the right, a skeleton playing a musical instrument, a probable reference to Danse macabre (the dance of death) motif, or a sign of approaching death. A muse plays a harp. A row of "spectators" in the background include a portrait of Ludwig van Beethoven and three other mentors, perhaps Russian painters Valentin Serov and Pavel Petrovich Chistyakov, whose classes he attended in Saint Petersburg.

Pen's portrait is a prime example of late 19th century Jewish artists' expression of the dual nature of their artistic creation: their cultural and style adhering to Western art principles while contributing some of their works to depiction of contemporary Jewish social and cultural aspects.

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Name/Title
Self Portrait with Muse and Death | Unknown
Object
Object Detail
Date
1924 (1925?)
Synagogue active dates
Reconstruction dates
Historical Origin
Unknown
Community type
Unknown |
Congregation
Unknown
Location
Unknown |
Site
Unknown
School/Style
Unknown|
Period
Unknown
Period Detail
Documentation / Research project
Unknown
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Material Decoration
Material Bonding
Material Inscription
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Material Cloth
Material Lining
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Height
214 cm
Length
Width
137 cm
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Iconographical Subject
Unknown |
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Extant
Documented by CJA
Surveyed by CJA
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Present Usage Details
Condition of Building Fabric
Architectural Significance type
Historical significance: Event/Period
Historical significance: Collective Memory/Folklore
Historical significance: Person
Architectural Significance: Style
Architectural Significance: Artistic Decoration
Urban significance
Significance Rating
Languages of inscription
Unknown
Type of grave
Unknown
0
Ornamentation
Custom
Contents
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Ruling
Pricking
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Direction/Location
Façade (main)
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Location of Apse
Location of Niche
Location of Reader's Desk
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Direction Prayer
Direction Toward Jerusalem
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Computer Reconstruction
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Negative/Photo. No.