Jewish Museum in Prague
DIGNITY AND ADORNMENT”
the early Middle Ages, Prague has been one of the most important Jewish
centres in central Europe. Jewish religious life centred around its many
synagogues, whose rich inventories were enriched by valuable donations
that were presented as an expression of piety. Some of these donations
were of exceptional value and many have been preserved to this day. The
items of most value and interest can now be viewed at this newly opened
bulk of the Museum’s unique holdings, including its synagogue textiles,
were sent here during World War II as confiscated property from Bohemia
and Moravian Jewish communities. Most Bohemian and Moravian Jews died
as a result of Nazi persecu- tion; their memory is recalled only by ritual
objects, rare items that document the age-old tradition of Jewish culture.
Textiles from this part of the collection are also amply represented in
its entirety, the textile collection of the Jewish Museum in Prague, which
has never before been presented systematically, is unique in a world context.
It is unique for its size, for the age and quality of the items it contains
and, above all, for the fact that it comes exclusively from Bohemia and
Moravia and constitutes a continuous whole in the development of textiles
from the sixteenth to the twentieth centuries
exhibition in the Imperial Stables, Prague Castle, features a total of
138 items, comprising 44 curtains, 85 Torah mantles, 6 valances and 3
covers for the reading-desks in synagogues. For reasons of space, it would
not have been possible to display these textiles to such an extent in
the Museum’s permanent exhibitions. Likewise, a representative selection
of items of such artistic and cultural-historical value could not have
been presented here.
terms of craftsmanship, textiles that employ silver and gold thread or
fresh-water pearls are of particular interest. Of exceptional historical
value is the set of textiles from the period of Rudolf II, which are decorated
with appliquéd Renaissance motifs. Among the exhibits is the earliest
preserved Torah curtain in the Museum; this was made by the famous master
embroiderer of Prague, Solomon Perl-sticker who donated it to the Old-New
Synagogue in 1592.
exhibition also documents the quality of Jewish calligraphy and ornament.
The motifs, symbols and compositions that appear on synagogue textiles
can also be found, for example, on tombstones in Jewish cemeteries. This
reflects their profound importance and proves that they have been with
the Jewish nation for centuries and have been an integral part of its
culture fromthe very beginning.
the preparation of such am ambitious project took several years of preparation,
during which time attention became focused on the restoration of select
pieces. Both the Museum’s textile restoration workshop and a large group
of external restorers were involved in this process. The exhibi-tion curator
is Dr. Ludmila Kybalová, the previous Director of the Jewish Museum in
Prague (1990 to 1994).
is plenty of available information on this exhibition. Basic details are
provided on the Museum’s website.
interactive CD ROM (“Synagogue Textiles”) has been released for visitors
and for those who cannot get to the exhibition in person; this was prepared
under the guidance of the Museum’s textile curator Dana Veselská and is
available in five languages – English, Czech, German, French and Italian.
With experts in mind, a large English catalogue of the Museum’s textile
collection (“Synagogue Textiles”) has been published for the exhibition.
This contains scholarly texts and provides detailed information on a thousand
carefully selected textiles. For more information visit the Museum’s website.
Without a doubt, the most attractive thing about both the CD ROM and the
catalogue are the large full-colour illustrations. A 27 minute documentary
on the Museum and its textile collection has also been prepared on the
occasion of the exhibition. This is available in Czech and English on
videocassette and is directed by Irena Pavlásková.
The catalogue, CD ROM and videocassette can be ordered COD from the Jewish Museum in Prague at U Staré školy 1, 110 00 Praha 1, Czech Republic or via the Internet.
MOUNTAIN OF MOUNTAINS
The exhibition was undertaken
with the generous financial support of The Project Judaica Foundation,
Carosso, and LLC Fine Art, New York. The Museum believes that the Prague
show will be followed by a series of touring exhibitions in the US and
Israel. The Prague show, which ran until 6 April 2003, was prepared by
Michaela Hájková, curator of the Museum’s fine art collection, in association
with the artist.
A 120-page bilingual Czech-English catalogue has been published for the exhibition. The catalogue contains an introductory text (by M. Hájková) about the desert projects, in addition to original texts by Aleš Veselý himself and numerous illustra-tions of his work. It may be ordered COD from the Jewish Museum in Prague at U Staré školy 1, 110 00 Praha 1, Czech Republic or via the Internet
OPENING OF ARCHIVES
REPAIRS TO THE PINKAS
Dampness in the synagogue is
being reduced on an ongoing basis by means of artificial condensation.
Revolving ventilation fans are being used for air circulation and the
temperature is being kept stable by the use of oil-filled radiators with
thermostats. This has limited further deterioration of the damaged elements
to a minimum. The flood-ing brought about changes to the internal quali-ties
of the brickwork and led to increased traces of salts, which have made
their way to the surface of the walls on which are inscribed the names
of Shoah victims. Externally, the inscriptions have been at risk from
organic alluvia, which have brought about the tissue growth of microorganisms.
In accordance with the recommendations of experts, art academy graduate
Michaela Poková carried out checks on the state of the wall inscriptions
and preventative and technical measures connected with rehabilitation.
Filtered paper has been applied
to the damaged inscriptions with the aim of limiting the occurrence of
soils in the upper plaster-coated layers of inscriptions and, at the same
time, of preventing soluble salts coming through to the surface. Salts
that have dissolved in this way and pigmented mould were later soaked
out of all the surfaces. A fungicidal and bactericidal solution was then
applied to the damp plaster. Despite all these preventative measures,
however, irreversible longterm changes have occurred in several spots.
Only after a lengthy monitoring process will be it become clear which
inscriptions should be restored, and which rewritten.
Restorers Bláha Josef &
Bláha Otto undertook the first phase of the restoration of the artificial
marble surrounding the bimah and ark; this involved removing impurities
and damaged conservation layers.
A structural investigation
revealed damage to the load-bearing members of the basement ventilation
channels alongside the perimeter walls of the synagogue. Repair work began
on these structures in February, on the basis of a project drawn up by
structural engineers Němec & Polák. Measurement points were set in
certain cracks in the walls and arches with the aim of monitoring the
stability of the structure. This monitoring is continuing and the results
will be assessed by the end of April 2001. A slight movement has been
detected by the measurements carried out to date. In order to conserve
the damaged structure it will be necessary to secure the building with
steel rods and to treat individual cracks. At this stage, one cannot rule
out the need for other measures, such as stabilising the building by pressurised
injections of ballast material.
All the above results of individual operations have been included in project documentation coordinated by the engineer Jan Červenák and architect Josef Bradáč. Once relevant building permit has been received and contractors selected on the basis of a competition for tenders, further repair work will be begin as soon as possible. This involves (among other things) reconstruction of the under-floor heating and all other related building alterations.
So far in 2003, the following institutions have provided financial contributions towards the removal of damage to the Jewish Museum in Prague caused by the August floods, in particular towards the renovation of damaged buildings and facilities:
The American Friends of the
Czech Republic, USA
For their contributions and
support, we would like to thank the above and all other donors who are
concerned about the fate and renovation of damaged Jewish monuments.
The completion of the new synagogue
in the Romanesque and Moorish style was supervised by Ignatz Kapper and
Filip Kaufmann and was financially supported by the then mayor of Smíchov,
industrialist and member of the Provincial Assembly, František Ringhofer.
To mark the completion of the building, a memorial document (the one that
has just been found) was drawn up and signed on the back by the fourteen
members of the Jewish community’s representative body.
This August, the Smíchov Synagogue will celebrate its 140th anniversary. The memorial document will be kept at the Museum, but, after completion of repair work, a copy, together with other documents on the history and reconstruction of the synagogue will be placed where the original item was found in memory of those who built the synagogue and for the benefit of future generations.
This project was conceived
by Arno Pařík, an exhibition curator at the Museum. Specialist Museum
staff, Alexandr Putík, Andrea Braunová and Olga Sixtová, contributed to
the preparation of texts and Eva Kosáková a Vlastimila Hamáčková worked
on the selection of items and archive materials. Regional museums and
galleries in Děčín, Pilsen, Brno, Náchod, Mikulov and Karlovy Vary have
already expressed interest in the project.