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He Cast a Look and Went Mad

Maurycy Minkowski (Polish, 1881-1930)

He Cast a Look and Went Mad, 1910

  • Oil on canvas
  • 43 x 52 1/2 in. (109.2 x 133.4 cm)
  • The Jewish Museum, New York
  • Gift of Mrs. Rose Mintz, JM 14-75

On view



He Cast a Look and Went Mad


He Cast a Look and Went Mad




Encourage students to examine this painting carefully:

  • Describe the setting. Which details help identify where this scene is taking place?

  • How has the artist rendered the space?
    [Most of the figures are cramped into the foreground, flattening the space and giving it a somewhat claustrophobic quality.]

  • What is the focal point of the composition? How does the artist lead your eyes toward the central figure?
    [The central figure’s face is highlighted. Several of the other figures look toward him. The angular shape of the podium also points toward him. His face appears at the apex of a triangle formed by the men seated on either side of him. In addition, he looks out of the picture plane to engage the viewer.]

  • Describe this main character in greater detail. Think about his posture, body language, facial expression, and gaze. What do you think he could be feeling?

  • How do the gestures and facial expressions of the other figures help tell a story?

  • What is the mood of the painting?


After giving students an opportunity to examine this painting, lead them in a discussion of related topics and themes. Explain the title of the painting and tell students the parable of the four sages.

  • How does knowing about the painting’s connection to this Talmudic parable and its historical context alter your reaction to the characters, setting, and scene depicted by the artist?

  • Which figures do you think correspond to the different characters in the parable?

  • How would you describe the conflict(s) represented in this painting? Can you think of any similar conflicts in today’s times? Have you ever experienced a conflict between tradition and new ways? Between religious and secular culture? If so, describe how you responded to these conflicts.


  • Assimilation and Acculturation
  • The Talmud and Traditional Jewish Texts
  • Modern European Jewish History