(lots 9, 15, 21, 23, 27, and 79)
Born in Baghdad, Yehuda Assia (1917-2016) immigrated to Israel at 32 in 1949, and spent the following years between Israel and Geneva. A successful banker and businessman, a dedicated philanthropist, a devoted husband and father, Assia began collecting art with his late wife Jeanette Assia after they were inspired by the private collections of their acquaintances in Geneva. Assia’s passion for art that reflects the traditions in which he was raised guided the tone and subject of his collecting. Masterworks from Israel’s leading artists filled the walls of his home, alongside examples from international modern masters, with deeply personal associations for the collector. Carmela Rubin describes a visit to Assia’s home where she toured his collection in preparation for exhibition at the Tel Aviv Museum of Art, “Assia paused by every one of Mordecai Ardon and Abel Pann’s paintings, and quoted the biblical phrase to which each of the abstract or figurative compositions relates…he quoted each phrase in full from memory…How important it seemed to him… that none of his guests remain oblivious to the details of these biblical stories.” (Yehuda Assia – Art Collector, Highlights from the Yehuda Assia Collection, p. 197)
Sinai 1967, like its earlier version, Steppes of the Negev, 1953, in the collection of the Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam, illustrates themes from the book of Exodus. Ardon's masterpiece, also referred to as Sinai Golden Calf and Serpent, juxtaposes symbols of the story of the Israelites departure from Egypt, as they wandered the Sinai desert to the Holy Land - the golden calf, the cult idol erected by Aaron when Moses was away on Mount Sinai receiving the commandments and the bronze serpent, constructed by Moses to protect the people from attack by poisonous snakes.
"In the highly colorful and luminous Sinai 1967 (the title was probably inspired by the Six-Day War, during which Israel reconquered the Sinai) equal importance is given to the Golden Calf and the Bronze Serpent, as both these elements occupy... almost the whole height of the desert, alight with gem-like touches under a full red sun blazing from the usual narrow strip of sky. Was Ardon underscoring the fact that demagogy and superstition were strongly returning?"(Arturo Schwartz, Mordecai Ardon: The Colors of Time, p.53)
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