Israel Museum receives 'transformative gift' of 300 antiquities by New York philanthropists

The Belfer Collection will go on display for the museum's 50th anniversary

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The Independent Culture

Two New York philanthropists are donating a major collection of more than 300 ancient Greco-Roman sculptures and Near-Eastern glass vessels to The Israel Museum in Jerusalem.

The gift from Robert and Renee Belfer was announced by the museum on Wednesday. To commemorate the museum’s 50th anniversary, an exhibition, entitled “A Roman Villa — The Belfer Collection”, will showcase about 100 of the objects from 5 June to 21 November.

Museum Director James Snyder says the collection is "one of the most important private holdings of antiquities anywhere."

He calls it a "transformative gift" of "pristine" and "superlative" examples that strengthen and enhance the museum's collection of Greco-Roman artefacts. Ranging from the 14th century B.C. Late Bronze Age to the 14th century Islamic Period, the artefacts include cast vessels and blown and mosaic glass pieces.

The collection also includes about 50 works of Greco-Roman bronze and marble sculptures, mosaics, frescoes and pottery. Among the highlights is a first-century Roman marble head of a youth and an Egyptian 18th Dynasty glass jar.

Synder said the Belfer gift was significant to Jerusalem as glass-making was an important development in the region and Greco-Roman Culture influenced the local iconography of ancient Israel.

“When deciding on an ideal home for our collection, we could not think of a more fitting venue than The Israel Museum, especially for its emphasis on the foundational narrative of humankind that is so relevant to us all today,” Renee Belfer said in a statement.

The Belfers are prominent art patrons, whose financial support in the 1990s launched The Robert and Renee Belfer Court for early Greek art at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Additional reporting by PA