A Hare and an Inheritance, Once Hidden, at the Jewish Museum

by AryanArtnews
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In his bestseller “Rabbit with Amber Eyes” is a journey by writer and ceramist Edmund de War, from the late 19th century to the 21st century with the Jewish family and their art collections. This book combines history and recollections with a sort of object-oriented ontology between the post-WWII Jewish diaspora and the decentralized possessions of the Ephrussi family, many of which were plundered by the Nazis. Draw similarities to. It begins with the inheritance of a collection of Japanese netsuke, palm-sized sculptures from the Edo period that the author had been with relatives of the Ephrussi family for generations.

“I want to know this wooden object (hard, tricky and Japanese) rolling with my fingers and where it was,” he writes about the feeling of dealing with one of the netsuke. “I would like to reach for the door handle and turn it so that it feels open. I step into each room where this object lived, feel the volume of the space, and what kind of painting is drawn on the wall. I want to know what it is and how the light fell from the window. And I got it in the hands of whom, and what they felt about it and thought about it, they about it. I want to know if I thought about it. I want to know what it witnessed. “

Fans of this book will get a closer look at Netsuke and other works in the Eflussi collection at a fascinating and immersive exhibition entitled “The Hare With Amber Eyes” at the Jewish Museum in New York. .. Recreating the cultural, sophisticated and sometimes luxurious life of the family, using art, design, photography, sound and ephemera, based on a previous show at the Jewish Museum in Vienna (“Eflusis: Time Travel”). To do. Various family efforts to save that fragment of life in exile.

The cleverly designed installation by Dillers Cofidio + Renfro takes full advantage of the fact that the Jewish Museum was once a private residence of a banker and has existed since the museum was Felix M. Warberg House. The Ephrussi family regenerates and evokes architectural features. (De Waal collaborated with Elizabeth Diller of DS + R, and Stephen Brown, senior curator of the Jewish Museum, and Shirabacker, associate curator.)

The installation also rigorously models deWaal’s storytelling with sound components that match the display to the reading of the excerpt. Paris at the end of the century and Vienna at the beginning of the 20th century had large plots, and the Ephrussi family maintained a palace-like home and was socially and economically comparable to the Rothschilds. (They were also bankers, but the family business began with the distribution of grain in Odessa.)

And like a book, the show continues to spin back to netsuke — four different glass cases present them in spaced groups — these objects over a century of violence, discrimination, and disposition. Emphasizes the durability of.

Also located throughout the gallery are images taken this year by Dutch photographer Iwan Baan, inside a former family residence in Paris, where the law and health insurance offices are now located, and more recently in Casino Austria. Headquarters of the Netherlands, which now represents a partially vacant Vienna. There is Starbucks on the first floor. In the image of Paris, a glamorous cornice is barely visible on a row of filing cabinets and a stack of paper. In Vienna, rooms with golden chandeliers have empty bookshelves and bare curtain rods. By paying attention to the current staleness, these photos prevent the show from becoming a story that is eager to avoid “the story of some graceful Mitteleuropa of loss.”

The installation, like a book, tells the story of a family collection from the late 19th century, with its most passionate art lovers Charles Efluci, Parisian art historian, critic, journal editor and salon. A regular and friend of Degas and Manet. This distant relative, Dwar, was so completely intertwined in the circle of art and literature that he appeared in the background of Renoir’s famous painting “Luncheon of the Boating People” and said he wore a dark jacket and top hat. It has been. Inspiration for Charles Swann, the character of Proust from “The Guermantes Way”. These credentials include the increasingly bold anti-Semites of his time, including Renoir, who described Gustave Moreau’s paintings in Charles’ collection as “Jewish art” with an emphasis on golden palettes. Did not stop sniping him.

Morrow is part of a salon-style installation here, which is a rather awkward combination of real paintings and sepia-toning reproductions. Mary Cassatt’s “At the Theater”, once in Charles’ collection and now in the Nelson Atkins Museum, is a bunch of Manet’s asparagus (and one of Manet’s humorous exchanges) commissioned by Charles. As with (part), here it is only here as an image. He was over-compensated for the painting, so he sent Charles another painting of an asparagus stalk. Berthe Morisot’s powerfully brushed “Young Girl in a Ball Gown” is rented from the Musée d’Orsay and is accompanied by a snippet written by Charles to the artist. To scatter them on her canvas with a light and witty touch. “

The Vienna branch of the family, founded by Charles’ uncle Ignas von Eflussi, is the focus of another gallery of art and ephemera. Many are centered around the “ridiculously large” (in Dewar’s words) Palais Frussi, and five are just as luxurious. -Ringstraße story house designed by Austrian Parliament architect Theophil von Hansen. Hansen’s preparatory drawings for the elaborate ceiling of the building are on display, along with the design of the Ignas ceiling painting commissioned by Christian Griepenkel, the decorator of the Vienna Opera Hall. In the scene that adorned the ballroom is the story of the book of Esther, in honor of the family’s religious and cultural heritage.

Ignas did not seem to have an eye for art of the same era as his nephew Charles, and preferred old masters by Dutch, German and Austrian artists and subsequent works of that style. Among the examples on display are the portrait of an old woman by the German artist Balthazar Denner and the calm street scene of 1870 by the Dutch landscape painter Cornelis Springer. Victor, the son of Ignas and the great-grandfather of De War, inherited the family business and Palais Eflussi, but was more curious. Meanwhile, Victor’s wife, Emmy, was talented in fashion, as evidenced by her photographs in a variety of formal outfits and outfits. (One is dressed as Renaissance lady Isabella d’Este, and the other is dressed as a female teacher of Chardin’s paintings.)

However, Emmy was the netsuke keeper she and Victor received from Charles as a wedding present, and she was exhibiting in the glass case of the dressing room. According to the family, it was Emmy’s maid, who was only identified as “Anna” in Dewar’s book, who protected the netsuke when the Gestapo marched to Palais. Interestingly, the catalog of the exhibition in Vienna shows that no such person existed. Put it in your apron pocket and later hide it under the mattress. The show does not solve how Anna’s mystery and netsuke remained in the Ephrussi family, but it includes a detailed Gestapo inventory of the family’s home that painfully clarifies the scope and thoroughness of the looting. Present a copy of the document.

Edmund’s grandmother Elizabeth (one of Emmy and Victor’s children) finally landed in England, and her brothers lived in the United States, Mexico, and Japan. If represented in a gallery of designed family photos. Many of them relate to Edmund’s great uncle Iggy, who turned from a fashion designer who gave Netsuke a new home in Tokyo to a banker (fashionable pan-Asia with low sofas and Korean and Chinese artwork. Incorporating them into the post-war interior).

In general, this exhibition could have seen more critically the Western obsession with Japanese art and design objects, “Japonisme,” as de Waal did in his book. By comparison, the show doesn’t talk much about netsuke, or what Charles could have “witnessed” before getting them as a collection of 264 pieces from a Paris dealer. By the time you reach the rabbit, which bears its name with amber eyes, the final gallery will only surprise you with its raised legs, squeezed ears, and the preciousness of its constantly vigilant expression.

But as a family portrait, or when you look at how the collection evolves across generations, the museum version of “The Hare With Amber Eyes” is inspiring. It is encouraging to see the Ephrussi reunite with each other and with their art in times of so many losses, isolations and separations.


Rabbit with amber eyes

Until May 15th, Jewish Museum, 1109 Fifth Ave at 92nd St. , (212) 423-3200; thejewishmuseum.org.

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