the talmudist

A Talmudist is a scholar specializing in the study of Talmud. This painting was the creation of Jacob Binder (1887–1987), a local Jewish artist and a student/associate of prominent American artists Joseph De Camp and John Singer Sargent. Binder was an unlikely artist to be so honored. A naturalized American and a Boston portraitist trained in the art academies of Vilna and Petrograd, Binder painted The Talmudist based upon sittings of recent Jewish immigrants from Eastern Europe in the Dorchester and Roxbury sections of Boston. This large canvas presents an aging European Jew, bedecked in a flowing white tallit, a silver collar adorning the prayer shawl. His head rests on his arm in a contemplative mode common to late nineteenth-century and early twentieth-century portraiture as he pores over a page of Talmud in a traditional manner. In the background, a bookcase is stuffed with the large tomes of the Babylonian Talmud.