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Stages     The Four Sons     Text Illustrations

The Four Sons:

Folio 5r — The wise son

Although the four sons are among the most commonly illustrated elements of the Haggadah, the tradition of their depiction developed over time and not all medieval haggadot included these figures. In this manuscript, the artist paid close attention to the text and was sensitive to the characterization of sons through gestures and actions. The wise son holds a closed book in his left hand and points deliberately to the initial word panel that describes him. Though his face was sketched in detail, pigment was never applied.

Folio 5v — The wicked son

The wicked son is portrayed as a particularly violent soldier. He wears a helmet (embellished with silver leaf), carries a dagger, sword, club, and shield, and bares his teeth. The last element helps in characterizing him, and relates to the instruction in the text to "set his teeth on edge". He has starkly black eyes and the profile of his face reveals a flat nose with bulbous tip. The artist has depicted the wicked son in a different manner than all other human figures in the manuscript. He points aggressively to his name, and he is the only son to look directly at his respective panel.

Folio 6v — The simple son and the son who does not know how to ask

The simple son is portrayed simply. He is beardless, holds nothing, and modestly extends his right arm slightly, palm down. He sits with his legs resting on the word that describes him. Beneath him, the son who does not know how to ask is depicted as a small boy (a common portrayal) whose head is uncovered. He is seated on a tendril that extends from the mouth of the Janus figure at the top of the page and his arms are folded. He is unable to gesture just as he is unable to ask.