| Dávid Harangozó

Dead Sea Scrolls in Hungary

The ‘Heritage of the Holy Land’ exhibition provided a colorful illustration of the cultural diversity of Israel’s history.

More than 35,000 visitors were interested to take a look at the recent exhibition of the Museum of Fine Arts offering a unique selection from the treasures of the Israel Museum, Jerusalem. The works of art displayed embraced a period of 9,000 years including such rarities as a piece of the 2,000-year-old Dead Sea Scrolls and masterpieces by Rembrandt, Chagall and Rodin.
Between 2008 and 2010, certain exhibition halls of the Israel Museum remain closed due to a renewal program, which has made it possible for some of the numerous items to be displayed in several European countries, including Hungary. ”So, this recent art show, 'The Heritage of the Holy Land', was quite a lucky coincidence from many aspects,” pressman Zoltán Lévay told Diplomacy and Trade. “It's been 20 years since Hungary and Israel revived diplomatic relations. Furthermore, Israel celebrates this year the 61st anniversary of gaining independence.”

“The idea of the exhibition arose at the meeting of the 'Bizot' group, an assembly that involves the managers of the most significant museums in the world”, Lévay revealed. “The director of this group is James Snyder who happens to be the general director of the Israel Museum. Within the group, Hungary is represented by László Baan, the general director of the Museum of Fine Arts.” Lévay noted that the aim of the exhibition was to provide visitors an illustration of the cultural diversity of Israel's history.

The exhibition including sculptures, archaeological finds, goldsmiths' work, paintings, and Jewish ritual implements are part of the extensive permanent collection of the Israel Museum. The museum preserves the most comprehensive exhibition, embracing archeological pieces, works of the Jewish material culture, as well as fine art pieces from the Renaissance up to the present. The Budapest exhibition showed immense eclecticism; the pieces on display presented diverse parts of historical periods and different areas of art. “Budapest and Jerusalem are quite alike in the fact that both cities are meeting points of diverse cultures and religions. Hence, the organizing concept of the Budapest exhibition was largely affected by the interpretation and artistic manifestation of the sacred and spiritual”, explained Lévay.

Dead Sea Scrolls
He also pointed out that the oldest piece in the exhibition was a Neolithic mask made of limestone (from the 7th millennium BC), probably used for religious rituals. It was discovered in the Judean Desert and is among the earliest known masks. “However, the most valuable artifact on display is an about 50-cm long piece of the 2,000-year-old Dead Sea Scrolls considered as one of the most important archaeological finds of the 20th century. The first pieces of the scrolls were found in 1947 on the northwest shore of the Dead Sea and in fact, this has been the first time they have ever left the walls of the Jerusalem institution.”

Other unique pieces on display were the gilded Koran of 550 silk-paper sheets from the 17th century, numerous religious objects related to the Torah, like a mantle, a Torah pointer, a breastplate, Hanukah candle holders, a Torah crown and other vehicles relating to Jewish religious rites, such as a sanctifying cup, a prayer book and a collection of spice-boxes gathered together from various European countries. Christian culture was also represented in the exhibition with special and rare objects as the negative and positive images of a photograph taken by Secondo Pia of the Shroud of Turin in 1898. Visitors could also see some Rembrandt, Nicolas Poussin, Turner, Chagall, Rodin and a selection of 20th century and contemporary works from Rothko, Serrano, Richter, Anthony Gormley and Mark Wallinger.

According to Lévay, the attendance of 35,000 people shows an average interest. “Just to compare, our Mucha exhibition, organized this spring had twice as many visitors as this latter one, on the other hand, our Hodler art show was attended by just the same number of visitors. We hope all the people who attended this exceptional exhibition could find at least one piece that left a mark in him or her.”

Réka Alíz Francisck

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