The Heritage of the Holy Land

Treasures from the Israel Museum in Jerusalem

23 June 2009 - 23 July 2009

The Museum of Fine Arts' exhibition opening on 23 June offers an unparalleled selection from the treasures of the Israel Museum, Jerusalem. The works of art displayed in the exhibition embrace a period of 9,000 years and the Hungarian public will have the opportunity to see such rarities as a piece of the Dead Sea Scrolls and masterpieces by Rembrandt, Chagall and Rodin. The exhibition, displaying some fifty special works of art, is open until the beginning of September.

The Heritage of the Holy Land
The Heritage of the Holy Land
Rembrandt van Rijn,
St. Peter in Prison, 1631,
© The Israel Museum, Jerusalem
Marc Chagall,
The Rabbi (Praying Jew), 1913–14
© The Israel Museum, Jerusalem

The many genres and artefacts in the exhibition – sculptures, archaeological finds, goldsmiths' work, paintings, and Jewish ritual implements are a representation of the comprehensive collection housed in the Israel Museum, which opened its doors in 1965. The material of the collection comprises half a million objects and ranges from the prehistoric period to contemporary art. The museum preserves the most comprehensive exhibition in the world of Israel's archaeology, and the material culture of the Jewish world, in addition to a rich selection of fine arts works from the Renaissance to the present day. The seat of the museum, Jerusalem, is a meeting point in many respects: it is the holy city of three monotheist religions and a geographical point of intersection, joining East and West, the history of its territory having been the meeting point of cultures and religions for thousands of years. The masterpieces on display in the Budapest exhibition originate from the multifarious parts of the Israel Museum's collection, from diverse historical periods and from various areas of art. The aim of the exhibition is to provide the visiting public with a picture of the cultural diversity of the region's history and to draw attention to the links that exist between the works of art, which in some cases are self-explanatory and in others surprising. In addition, the interpretation of the sacred and the spiritual, as well as their artistic manifestation, are the organising principles that lend unity to the exhibition.

TThe Heritage of the Holy Landhe oldest piece in the exhibition, which dates back to the 7th millennium BCE, is a Neolithic mask made of limestone. This unprecedented find was discovered in the Judean Desert and is among the earliest known masks. It was probably used during religious rituals and magical rites. The painted anthropoid terracotta coffins, dating from the 13th century BCE, were discovered in archaeological digs near Gaza and unambiguously demonstrate Egyptian influence. The exhibition' s most valuable and perhaps most fascinating artefact is a piece of the 2,000-year-old Dead Sea Scrolls (photo: © The Israel Museum, Jerusalem). The first pieces of these special documents were found in 1947 by Bedouin shepherds in 1947 near Khirbet Qumran on the northwest shore of the Dead Sea. The parchment fragments are regarded as one of the most important archaeological finds of the 20th century and are copies of the books of the Bible, Apocryphal works and the writings of a religious sect. The longest fragment included among the scrolls on display at the exhibition is a 40cm-long section of the so-called Temple Scroll, which is a detailed description of an ideal temple design.

The Heritage of the Holy LandOn display is a gilded Koran of 550 silk-paper sheets dating from the 17th century, as well as numerous devotional objects linked to the Torah (a mantle, Torah pointer, breastplate, and Torah crown)(photo: © The Israel Museum, Jerusalem). There are numerous other implements pertaining to Jewish religious rites, such as a sanctifying cup, a prayer book and a collection of spiceboxes gathered together from various European countries. The forty decorated spiceboxes of different shapes were used in the Havdalah rituals held to mark the passing of the Sabbath. Pieces of Christian culture included in the exhibition are such special and rare objects as the negative and positive images of a photograph taken by Secondo Pia of the Shroud of Turin in 1898.

The Heritage of the Holy LandThe Israel Museum's fine arts works are represented by such masterpieces as Rembrandt's painting executed in 1631, entitled St. Peter in Prison. The painting is based on the Acts of the Apostles of the New Testament and depicts Peter the Apostle in his prison cell in Jerusalem after his arrest by Herod's soldiers. Other outstanding works to be seen in the exhibition are Nicolas Poussin's The Destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem, Turner's landscapes of Jerusalem, Chagall's painting entitled The Rabbi, and Rodin's bronze sculpture of Iris, Messenger of the Gods.

The Budapest exhibition also provides a rich selection from the Israel Museum's 20th-century and contemporary material. The works on display by Rothko, Serrano, Richter, Anthony Gormley, as well as Mark Wallinger's Ecce Homo, a sculpture depicting Jesus which was erected on Trafalgar Square in London in 1999, are deserving of attention in their own right (photo: © The Israel Museum, Jerusalem).

Between 2008 and 2010, some of the exhibition halls of the Israel Museum in Jerusalem remain closed because of a campus renewal programme. This renovation has made it possible for some of the numerous, precious items that normally form part of the museum's permanent exhibition to be displayed in Budapest in summer 2009. The curator of the exhibition is Yigal Zalmona, the Chief Curator at Large of the Israel Museum, Jerusalem.

The exhibition is organized by the Israel Museum, Jerusalem. Responsible for exhibition design and installation Krisztina Jerger.

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The Heritage of the Holy Land