Col­lec­tor sees the light

The Jewish Chronicle - - FRONT PAGE - BY CHAR­LOTTE OLIVER

A Bri­tish art col­lec­tor made the dis­cov­ery of a life­time when he un­earthed a “price­less” oil lamp be­lieved to have been used in King Herod’s palace in Judea over 2,000 years ago

ART COL­LEC­TOR David Breuer-Weil knew he had found an im­por­tant piece of his­tory when he came across a dec­o­rated oil lamp at a Dutch art fair. But, upon closer in­spec­tion, he found it was even more spe­cial than he thought.

The arte­fact was on sale at the last week of the pres­ti­gious TEFAF show in Maas­tricht, where it was de­scribed only as a “large Judean ter­ra­cotta oil lamp”. But Mr Breuer-Weil sus­pected it had ac­tu­ally come from in­side the win­ter palace in Jeri­cho of King Herod the Great, who reigned over Judea from 37-4BCE.

“I was walk­ing around TEFAF when I saw this piece — the de­sign is very sim­i­lar to pieces that were dis­cov­ered in the Tem­ple area in Jerusalem. I im­me­di­ately got goose-bumps.

“I bought it straight away, even be­fore do­ing any re­search, be­cause if you snooze, you lose at these things. But when I went away and did some re­search, I re­alised it most likely ac­tu­ally came from Herod’s palace.”

On fur­ther in­ves­ti­ga­tion, Mr Breuer-Weil found that an al­most iden­ti­cal ver­sion of his pur­chase had been dis­cov­ered years ago in the ex­ca­va­tions of King Herod’s palace. The only other ex­am­ple of a sim­i­lar piece is owned by the Is­rael Mu­seum in Jerusalem.

“I’ve been col­lect­ing pieces from the Sec­ond Tem­ple pe­riod for 20 years and have al­ways been look­ing for some­thing like this,” Mr Breuer-Weil said. “When I saw it, I couldn’t be­lieve it. When you com­pare the de­tails with the other ver­sion, you can see that they prob­a­bly came from the same mould.”

Both lamps have 17 spouts in­di­cat­ing it was made for a large room in a ma­jor pub­lic build­ing.

The art col­lec­tor, who is also an artist, said he was plan­ning to of­fer the lamp on ex­tended loan to the Jewish Mu­seum in Am­s­ter­dam.

“This is a very im­por­tant piece of Jewish cul­tural her­itage — the last flow­er­ing of indige­nous Jewish art in that pe­riod. One can only say it is price­less,” he said.

When I saw this piece I got goose­bumps’

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