On December 15th an important auction of Judaica will be organised in New York by Sotheby’s. Most of the auctioned wonders are part of Shlomo Moussaieff’s collection; he was an Israeli jeweller and antiques collector who died in July last year.
Among the amazing items listed on the catalogue, we noticed a well-acquainted lot: an edition of “Tragédies du Ghetto” by Israel Zangwill, richly illustrated with original waterecolor paitings and drawings by Alice Halicka (1894-1975), a Polish painter, who lived for most of her life in France.
The lot number is 247 and it’s possible to appreciate it – Sotheby’s has published few high quality pictures of it – at this link: http://www.sothebys.com/en/auctions/ecatalogue/2016/important-judaica-n09589/lot.247.html
“Tragédies du Ghetto, contes de Israel Zangwill” was translated by Charles Mauron and printed in Paris by Emile Hazan publishing house in 1928 in limited edition; only 2500 copies of the book were released.
The author, Israel Zangwill (1864-1926) was an English famous humorist and writer; he was also leader of the Zionist Organization, that he quitted in 1905 to found his own organisation, named the Jewish Territorialist Organization.
“Ghetto Tragedies”, that’s the original English title, was first published in 1899; the book gathers a series of short tragicomic stories narrating life’s moments in different European Jewish communities.
The collection is part of Zangwill literary sequence of Ghetto tales: “Children of the Ghetto” (1892), “Grandchildren of the Ghetto” (1892), “Dreamers of the Ghetto” (1898) and “Ghetto Comedies” (1907).
The auctioned book is totally one in a million. Besides the 57 original illustration by the painter, it includes the artist autograph dedication: “Illustré spécialement pour Madame Robert Ellissen, Alice Halicka”. It’s an outstanding work estimated 12,000-16,000 US dollars (circa 11,175-14,900 euro). The volume had already been auctioned off on June 19th, 2012 in London by Christie’s for 6,250 pounds (circa 8.035 euro).
Alice Halicka was born in Poland in 1894. She was the wife of the French cubist Louis Marcoussis. The couple moved to Cusset, near Vichy, after the Nazi invasion of Paris in 1940, where Halicka remained after Marcoussis’ death in 1941. Halicka published her memoirs of the war, “Hier, souvenirs”, in 1946 and returned to Paris, where she died in 1975.
As anticipated, we were no stranger to this title. We had indeed the chance to host it twice on our shelves. The first copy was registered as number 253 of 2500, the second one was number 2465 of 2500.
In either case, pages didn’t have any original illustration or dedication of any well known artist or personalities of the time. Nevertheless, the book happens to be of great historical and cultural interest. Should you ever come across it – for the time being, one copy is still available in our shop -, we warmly suggest you to read it.
The most striking thing is how Zangwill, maintaining a suitable distance and never too explicitly, harshly judges his characters, who are often victims of their own extreme conservatorism and orthodoxy.
Let’s see now how much will the auctioned copy realise on December 15th. We hope that the charm of the book and of its wonderful illustrations may arouse interest in other enthusiasts; likely, the book will soon enrich the collection of a new treasures seeker.