(All photos can be much enlarged)
I first heard of Nimrod at the archaeology exhibition called "The Early Years, The 70th Anniversary of the Museum for Jewish Antiquities Institute of Archaeology, Hebrew University, Mt. Scopus."
He was revolving on a screen, the photography produced by the Computerized Archaeology Laboratory.
Then last week I saw the real thing, for the first time!
Nimrod had been commissioned for the Hebrew University but was rejected and ended up here at the Israel Museum instead.
What a story!
First I'll give you the story as told by the University's Archaeology Institute (I think they begin by talking about the early 1940s, the pre-State days):
The Hebrew University commissioned the first version of the Nimrod statue from Israeli sculptor Yitzhak Danziger.
The planned sculpture was to be placed at the entrance to the Museum for Jewish Antiquities, however the order was cancelled and the completed sculpture never reached the University.
The statue depicts young and naked Nimrod, the hunter, carrying a bow on his back and a falcon on his shoulder.
Danziger drew his inspiration from the ancient Near Eastern cultures and the description in Genesis 10:8-9: "Cush also begot Nimrod, who was the first man of might on earth. He was a mighty hunter by the grace of the Lord."
The shape is reminiscent of ancient Egyptian statues and its name is connected to the Mesopotamian heritage.
Nimrod is a corruption of the name of the Assyrian god Ninurta.
The Nubian sandstone from which the statue was carved conjures an image of exotic cultures.
The ancient Near Eastern sources of inspiration for the statue and their conception of a young and daring figure were viewed by many as an aspiration to identify with proto-Jewish sources.
For this reason the statue was considered a symbol of the movement of Young Hebrews, called "The Canaanites," which emerged in Palestine at the end of the 1930s.
The mention of Nimrod as a negative figure in Jewish midrash, as well as the bold creativity of the sculpture, its unorthodoxy, and perhaps even overt sexuality are what caused the University to reject its inclusion in the museum over seventy years ago.
Today, the Nimrod statue stands at the entrance to the Israeli Art Wing in the Israel Museum.
Now, if you still have patience, please click on the sign and read how the art history folks at the Israel Museum tell the same story but with a very different emphasis.
Especially the part about
. . . In the 1940s a group of intellectuals calling themselves "Young Hebrews" identified closely with this sculpture.And the final outcome? -- as it says many times in the Book of Esther, read today on Purim, "Venahafoch hu" -- just the opposite happened.
Dubbed "Canaanites" by their opponents, they connected to the ancient cultures of the land and called for a total break with Judaism and Jewish history.
Nimrod became a symbol for many youngsters at the time, as the most extreme expression of a native identity based solely on this geographic heritage.
(This post links to Weekend Reflections and Whimsical Windows, Delirious Doors.)