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Obj. ID: 33045
Modern Jewish Art
  Boris Schatz, Memorial Plaque for Eliezer Ben Yehuda, 1923

© , Photographer: Unknown,

The following description was researched by Alec Mishory.

The spirit of the Italian Renaissance was evoked in one of Schatz’ most significant Zionist projects – a Hebrew Pantheon of individual commemoration, a series of memorials to Zionist leaders and other prominent public figures of Jewish Palestine. As a part of the general process of giving visual form to the rebirth of the Jewish People, the project expressed a component of the “rebirth” phenomenon: the creation of a national epic, carried out by the nation's new cultural heroes. Achad ha'Am referred to the role played by Jewish cultural heroes of his time in commemorating the death of the Zionist leader Theodor Herzl: "Indirectly, Herzl gave us one thing that might be considered greater than everything he did in reality. He gave us himself as the subject for the “poetry of revival;” a subject that the imagination can grasp and cover with every desired virtue so it can make him national Hebrew hero, in whose virtue all national aspirations would come true in real form".

In following Achad ha'Am's concepts, Schatz's portraits of the new “people's heroes” constitute a significant step towards a less common phenomenon in the history of traditional Jewish culture because of its secular, non-Jewish aspects: a visual rather than a verbal commemoration of heroes. Most of Schatz's memorial plaques are made of a rectangular format crowned by an arch, extremely popular with medieval and Renaissance altarpieces and public memorials, echoing the form of Roman triumphal arches and always associated with sacred connotations.

The Memorial plaque for Eliezer Ben Yehuda, hallowed revivalist of the Hebrew language in the 20th century, resembles Italian Renaissance wall tombs of Uomini famosi, Men of Renown, humanist cultural heroes. The Renaissance prototypes generally depict the hero's death mask at the top of the relief, surmounted by an arch. Underneath the sculpted image of the hero, they generally include an epitaph. The top of Schatz's relief includes Ben Yehida's death mask. Schatz himself wrote the epitaph for Ben Yehuda;  written in Hebrew, it summarizes the achievements of one of the Jewish-Hebrew revival heroes during his lifetime:

I knew a clear-eyed seer

Who would envision giants while dwelling among dwarves

Living in the dark, he invoked the sun

And raised freedom’s banner for the Hebrews.

I knew a clear-eyed dreamer

For an entire generation, he spun and wove a reverie of miracles

The generation yearned – and the fantasy materialized

The vision of his heart manifested, and his sun was not extinguished.

Living in the present, he spoke the language of ancient times

Intending to roll the epochs back

His nation mocked him, but he believed in marvels

And so carried westwards his vision of the East.

1 image(s)

sub-set tree:

Name/Title
Memorial Plaque for Eliezer Ben Yehuda | Unknown
Object Detail
plaster cast relief, Photo published in Boris Schatz, his Life and Work, Monography, Jerusalem, 1925
Date
1923
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Unknown
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0
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Author of description
Alec Mishory | 2019
Architectural Drawings
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Computer Reconstruction
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Negative/Photo. No.