Skip to main content

PickerDropdownListView_Go

Culture Minister defers export of an extremely rare set of 18th century Jewish silk hangings

21 March 2013

Categories:
Museums and Libraries

Seven hand embroidered religious silk hangings, depicting the Temple at Jerusalem, are at risk of leaving the UK unless a matching offer from a UK buyer can be found.

Culture Minister Ed Vaizey has placed a temporary export bar on the seven hangings to provide a last chance to raise the £120,000 needed to keep the set in the UK.

The exquisite hangings, embroidered in gold, silver-gilt and coloured silks, depict different views of the First and Second Temples in Jerusalem. Two show the great columns Jachin and Boaz at the entrance of the First Temple, whilst the others depict scenes probably based on surviving engravings which illustrate the Second Temple. They are approximately three hundred years old and have been preserved in exceptional condition.

One panel contains the Hebrew inscription ‘Eloqeynu’, meaning ‘our God,’ a particularly reverential way of writing the name of God, reinforcing the suggestion that the works were designed for Jewish religious purposes. No other hangings in this particular form are known, and as apparently unique survivals they are hugely important.

The technique of goldwork embroidery was used to particularly successful effect in conveying the descriptions of the First and Second Temples in the Hebrew Bible and in the Mishnah (often referred to as the earliest written book of Jewish laws.)

Whilst both the designer and workshop is unknown, their style and technique indicates they may have been worked in Northern Italy or the Netherlands in the first half of the 18th century. Very few textiles containing such a large quantity of gold and silver-gilt thread from this period remain, as many examples have been destroyed over the years for the intrinsic worth of the materials.

Culture Minister Ed Vaizey said:

“This spectacular series of seven silk hangings are amongst the finest examples left in existence and represent a fantastic opportunity to advance UK scholarship and appreciation of early 18th century textiles and Jewish ritual art. I hope that the temporary export bar I have placed on them will allow time for a UK buyer to step forward and secure them for the nation.”

The Minister’s ruling follows a recommendation by the Reviewing Committee on the Export of Works of Art and Objects of Cultural Interest (RCEWA), who believe the export decision should be deferred on the grounds that the textiles are of outstanding aesthetic importance and that they are of outstanding significance for the study of Jewish ritual art and European textile design in the first half of the 18th century.

Chairman of the Reviewing Committee, Lord Inglewood said:

“The importance of these apparently unique works is unquestionable. They are beautiful examples of 18th century textiles and their link to Judaism makes them very important.”

The decision on the export licence application for the silk hangings will be deferred for a period ending on 20 May 2013 inclusive. This period may be extended until 20 August 2013 inclusive if a serious intention to raise funds to purchase the hangings at the recommended price of £120,000.

Offers from public bodies for less than the recommended price through the private treaty sale arrangements, where appropriate, may also be considered by Mr Vaizey. Such purchases frequently offer substantial financial benefit to a public institution wishing to acquire the item.

Notes to editors

  1. Organisations or individuals interested in purchasing the hangings should contact RCEWA on 0845 300 6200.

  2. The details of the textiles are:
    Set of seven textile hangings depicting different views from the Temple at Jerusalem, embroidered in gold or silver-gilt thread and coloured silks
    Sizes: 107 x 182 cm; 94 x 58 cm; 91 x 58 cm; 77 x 58 cm; 77 x 58 cm; 33 x 56 cm; 33 x 56 cm
    Date: Early 18th Century

  3. The Reviewing Committee on the Export of Works of Art and Objects of Cultural Interest is an independent body, serviced by Arts Council England, which advises the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport on whether a cultural object, intended for export, is of national importance under specified criteria.
  1. Arts Council England champions, develops and invests in artistic and cultural experiences that enrich people’s lives. Between 2011 and 2015, it will invest £1.4 billion of public money from government and an estimated £1 billion from the National Lottery to help create these experiences for as many people as possible across the country.