The monument by Nathan Rapoport (1948) commemorating the Warsaw Ghetto uprising marks two things. Firstly, the heroism of the Jews who fought back against all odds; and secondly, their planned annihilation. The model was completed a year after the uprising and Rapoport’s emotional involvement is palpable. It is an eclectic work in the style of socialist realism, based on François Rude’s “Marseillaise” on the Arc de Triomphe in Paris (1836). While Rapoport’s monument stands apart from the evolution of 20th century sculpture, it maintains a universal appeal that has prevailed until the present.
Abigail: “I was trying to show that in Poland they had this amazing musical genius as well as this horrific evil towards the Jews. They were sophisticated and yet barbaric.”
This multi-facetted painting, which encompasses various space-time dimensions, contrasts the sophistication of the Polish culture with the deeds perpetrated or abided by its citizens. It is not without a tinge of Jewish humour. It images the Warsaw Ghetto monument by Nathan Rapoport as a painting within a painting and reflects on the cultural side of Warsaw prior to the Holocaust. In the top left-hand corner the great Polish composer Fréderic Chopin (who, it is known, did not like Jews) is depicted in grandiose pose surrounded by musical notes holding a puppet on a string. For the puppet below him the artist has made use of a marionette figure of the great sorceress created by Jan van Erkelens for his puppet theatre “Toverspiegel” (magic mirror). Abigail is suggesting that the puppet is a reflection of the true nature of Chopin and a parody of the Polish cultural sophistication he represented.
Abigail appears below the figure of Chopin as a mother embracing her infant child. She empathises with the Jewish mothers of the Warsaw Ghetto and the looming danger faced by their children. She is protected from the evil ambiènce by a delicate arch of white birds in flight that surround her, and an assortment of pink roses that float beside her. A flame that pre-empts the Holocaust arises at the edges of the painting of Rapoport’s monument relief. In the sky female spirits spin off into the universe like sparks.