Bezalel Writing Set

This writing set was made by students of Boris Schatz and given to him as a wedding gift in 1911.

Bezalel School of Arts and Crafts

In 1903, Russian-born Prof. Boris Schatz, then head of the Royal Academy of Arts in Sofia, Bulgaria, met in Vienna with Theodor Herzl, founding father of political Zionism, and presented to him the idea of the establishment of an Crafts school in Israel. In 1905 the Seventh Zionist Congress decided upon the foundation of "Bezalel", the School of Handicrafts in Jerusalem which opened in 1906 and which has been the most important academy of Fine Arts, Design and Architecture in Israel ever since.

Bezalel’s initial and lasting goals were not only to train gifted students in handicrafts, but to find visual expressions for a cultural and national Jewish independence in the framework of the Jewish Renaissance movement. He sought a synthesis between the European artistic tradition and Jewish design traditions from the east as well as from the west, and to integrate Near Eastern art forms with the land of Israel’s local culture.

The school's carpet-weaving department was established first, followed by departments of painting, stonecutting, carving, frame making, silver filigree, lithography, olive-wood, lacework, photography, ivory carving and batik. Worldwide exhibitions and the founding of several Bezalel societies in Europe promoted and marketed Bezalel products. Schatz drew a number of famous artists to the school, such as Samuel Hirszenberg, Lazar Krestin, E.M. Lilien (if only for a short time), Abel Pann, Ze’ev Raban, and Meir Gur-Arie. Bezalel also attracted a considerable number of young, ambitious female students who would later play a part in the Eretz Israeli art scene.

But there were severe frictions between Schatz and the Berlin Board, interested more in sales and revenues than in a cultural center, and also with art colleagues who thought Schatz’s art was old-fashioned and too overloaded with Jewish Symbolism. In 1913 he was dismissed as director of Bezalel.

The school was successful until World War I which cut it off from its managing board in Berlin, as well as from its European customers and supporters. The historical events during and after the War years led to a political, financial and managerial crisis. But Schatz remained hyper-active and in 1925 established the Bezalel Museum, which was later absorbed into the Israel Museum.

In 1929 the Bezalel school was closed down as a result of financial but also artistic, ideological and political difficulties. Schatz set out to find funds for the school. He died in 1932 during a journey through the United States with a traveling exhibition of Bezalel works.

Name: Bezalel Writing Set
Artist: Bezalel School of Arts and Crafts
Origin: Jerusalem, 1911
Medium: Ebony, Ivory, Mother-of-pearl, Olive Wood
Dimensions: 2 15/16 in.x 12 3/8 in. x 9 5/8 in.
Credit: Gift of Bezalel Schatz
Catalog Number: 82.48 a-g