Lot 14
  • 14

YOSL BERGNER | Kushan (The Deed)

120,000 - 180,000 USD
Log in to view results
bidding is closed


  • Yosl Bergner
  • Kushan (The Deed)
  • signed in Hebrew (lower right) and inscribed in Hebrew (lower left)
  • oil on canvas, laid down on board
  • 58 1/4 by 100 3/8 in.
  • 148 by 255 cm


Michael Firon, Esq., Tel Aviv, acquired directly from the artist, early 1980s
Thence by descent to the current owners


Tel Aviv, Rubin Museum, The Firon Collection: Collecting Art in Israel, June - September 2017


Surface in excellent, original condition. Minor accretions and abrasions to frame. Not viewed under UV.
In response to your inquiry, we are pleased to provide you with a general report of the condition of the property described above. Since we are not professional conservators or restorers, we urge you to consult with a restorer or conservator of your choice who will be better able to provide a detailed, professional report. Prospective buyers should inspect each lot to satisfy themselves as to condition and must understand that any statement made by Sotheby's is merely a subjective qualified opinion.

Catalogue Note

Bergner's surrealist triptych is a masterpiece of historical fantasy.  In 1917, the Balfour declaration affirmed official support from the British Government to establish a national home for the Jewish people in Palestine. With the Zionist movement, immigration in the late 19th and early 20th century was made possible, in part, by purchases of large tracts of land by families of means from the Turks; these would become the earliest cities of Israel. When complications developed around these practices, under British rule large purchases of land were forbidden without the approval of the High Commissioner.

Sir Herbert Samuel, High Commissioner of British occupied Palestine, rides high through Bergner's surrealist masterwork, waiving a scroll of paper with Turkish text, a kushan, a deed to the contested land. Bergner illustrates Samuel, the first Jewish governor of the territory in modern times, as a heroic figure, one of the first benefactors of the Jewish homeland. The artist’s characteristic figures, with dark eyes and quiet smiles, look out their windows at the British Zionist arriving on horseback, riding down the coast with land rights in hand. The Ottoman soldiers in the lower left panel may reference the expulsion of Jews from Tel Aviv in 1914, who were only able to return to their homes after the British conquest of Palestine.

In the 1960s, Bergner, who himself had moved to Israel in 1948, painted a number of pioneer subjects, while simultaneously introducing surrealistic elements into his paintings. Inspired by the work of Renee Magritte, Bergner sets his tale of migration in a fantastical world where the line between the indoors and the outdoors, land and home, is obscured.

The Firon Collection is one of the finest examples of a collection dedicated to Israeli Art built in the early decades of the state of Israel.

Michael (Mike) Firon acquired his first works of art in the early 1950s and became one of Israel’s best known collectors for the next 30 years. A man of highly refined taste, Firon collected masterpieces from over fifty Israeli and Ecole de Paris artists from the best periods of their creation.  

Among his first acquisitions, were two works by a then relatively unknown Yosl Bergner. The artist visited Firon’s home shortly after, to see who had acquired what he often referred to as his “children”, thus beginning a close friendship that lasted until the collector’s death in 2008. The Firon collection includes highlights that span the artist’s career, including the masterpiece triptych Kushan (The Deed).

Born in Tel Aviv in 1923, Firon fought in Israel’s War of Independence as a member of the Palmach. He was a tier-one lawyer, heading the Firon Law Firm for over 50 years. Renowned for his sharp wit and uncompromising professionalism, he served as Legal Counsel to the Israeli Labor party, was deeply involved in developing Israeli industry, and served as Chairman of the Board of the Israeli Aviation Industries. A highly educated intellectual and an avid art lover, Firon was generous in sharing his unique capabilities with others, and his passions are reflected in his important collection of Israeli Art.