The Jewish sculptor Mark Antokolsky (1843-1902) was born in Vilna. When Schatz first met him he was already an acclaimed Russian artist who had sculpted portraits of the royal family and produced a number of landmark works. His style was realistic, tending to emphasize psychological traits, and he often chose subjects that conveyed social and humanist ideas. Antokolsky had a strong influence on Schatz's work and on his decision to specialize in sculpture.

When Schatz moved to Paris in 1889, this was apparently on Antokolsky's recommendation. Schatz studied with Antokolsky for a number of years, and the two became close friends. In fact, it seems that it was Antokolsky who planted the Bezalel idea in Schatz's mind. Yet despite his admiration, Schatz agreed with the criticism voiced against Antokolsky, by the Zionist thinker Ahad Ha'am and others, that the great Jewish sculptor had been forced to work "for the Gentiles' pleasure" and therefore "belonged to them.

 

" It is possible that Schatz believed that he would be the "true" Jewish Antokolsky and that Mattathias, like the sculptures in the "Moses" series, was a heroic embodiment of this sense of destiny. The way in which Schatz incorporated the features of Antokolsky's John the Baptist, displayed here, into his own work on the same subject and ultimately used them in a work entitled Sleeping Jew also suggests the nationalist direction he gave to his teacher's influence.

 


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