Tomorrow is Hanukkah, the Jewish festival commemorating the rededication of the Second Temple in Jerusalem at the time of the Maccabean Revolt against the Second Empire. Hanukkah is also known as the Festival of Lights and is observed for eight nights and days by lighting the candles of a candelabrum with nine branches, the menorah. One of the branches is typically placed above or below the others and its light is used to light the other eight.
And I thought that it was the perfect occasion to introduce to you this painting of the Russian artist Maria Rosanovitch Vorobieff, better known as Marevna. She was the daughter of a Jewish actress, but at the age of two she was adopted by a Polish Catholic aristocrat.
This painting presents a Hasidic dance during a celebration of Hanukkah. We can see in the centre of the painting a group of old men dancing embracing, while a violinist is playing and below, we can see the candelabrum lights. They’re probably executing the Horah, a Jewish circle dance typically danced to the famous song Hava Nagila. It is traditionally danced at joyous occasions in the Jewish community.
There are also few women in the painting, they are here mere spectators, watching the men’s dance. One of them is holding a little boy. In the previous sketches for this painting, we can see that the violinist was not included.
The dance in Judaism
In Hasidic Judaism, the dance is a tool for the expression of joy, and it is believed to have a therapeutic effect purifying the soul, unifying the community, and promoting spiritual elation. The religious community disapproved mixed dancing, imposing separate circles for men and women.
Hasidism or Hasidic Judaism is a Jewish religious group that arose as a spiritual revival movement during the 18th century in the territory of contemporary Ukraine. They spread quickly throughout the Eastern Europe, but nowadays most of affiliates reside in Israel and the US.
- The art historians have observed that this painting epitomises or mixes two cultures to: the Jewish and the Russian.