From a young Jewish model to a Salvation Army Officer

Fête juive and the case of Chava Slavatitsky



Helene Schjerfbeck, Chava Slavatitsky, Salvation Army, Finnish Jewry, sukkot


The captivating painting of Helene Schjerfbeck, Fête juive / Lehtimajanjuhla (1883), is considered to this day an exceptional piece of art with significant cultural value. It already carries great value, aside from its artistic quality and how it showcases the Jewish feast of Sukkot. What is not evident from simply looking at the artwork, however, is the intriguing background story to the fate of its models – more specifically, that of its female model, Chava Slavatitsky, and the ‘scandal’ connected with her story. Her name became known all over Finland, as it gained significant attention from the local press, perhaps mainly as it occurred during the turbulent times of the late nineteenth century when the question of Jewish emancipation in Finland was frequently discussed in society. This article aims to briefly introduce the reader to Schjerfbeck’s motivation in creating the painting and to its representation of the Sukkot 140 years ago, as well as aiming to tell the extraordinary story of its relatively unknown young sitter, including her abduction and conversion to Christianity. Hence, this contribution aims to provide an addendum to the Jewish history of the country in the late 1800s and to briefly reflect on the nature of Jewish–Christian relations of the era.




How to Cite

Czimbalmos, M., & Pataricza, D. (2023). From a young Jewish model to a Salvation Army Officer: Fête juive and the case of Chava Slavatitsky. Nordisk judaistik/Scandinavian Jewish Studies, 34(2), 35–52.