Israeli Bezalel Rugs from the Bezalel School of Art in Jerusalem
Bezalel Rugs and Carpets were produced in the early to mid-twentieth century as part of a new art school for Jewish immigrants in what was then British-ruled Palestine. Founded by Boris Schatz from Bulgaria in conjunction with Zionist pioneer Theodore Herzl, the Jerusalem workshop and art school were established creative and supportive place for Jewish artists. These, now Israeli artists, were motivated to mesh their European artistic approached and traditions with their now more Oriental or middle eastern homeland. True to this inspiration, the Bezalel rug workshop drew upon a wide range of Oriental rug designs, while often exploring folk art traditions from the west as well, but always adhering to a high artistic and technical standard.
Jewish artists do not normally come to mind when thinking of antique Oriental rugs, however that is exactly who made Bezalel rugs. These carpets were woven at the Bezalel Academy which operated from 1906 to 1929 in British-ruled Palestine. The Jewish arts-and-crafts movement inspired a wide range of unique rugs, often with religious themes.
Bezalel rugs woven in Israel often have Holy Land themes and display a blend of Jewish, Persian, Turkish and European styles. The construction and warm color pallet of Bezalel rugs resemble many Anatolian Rugs of the Ottoman Dynasty.
The Bezalel Academy was mostly the brain child of Boris Schatz with the help of Theodore Herzl, the legendary Zionist pioneer, with the goal of creating a distinctly Jewish art style with European and Middle Eastern influences to depict the Jewish experience. The school was named for the Biblical artist, Bezalel, who designed the Ark and the Israeli sanctuary after the Egyptian exodus of Israelite’s.
The school encouraged Jewish artists to draw motivation from their European customs while including influences from their Oriental motherland to create quality pieces of art. The result was a large body of work including paintings, wood and metal works, etchings and carpets with a distinctly Jewish flair.
The carpets were created by Jewish artists at the school or its workshop in Jerusalem with high technical and artistic standards. The Bezalel rug workshop employed a variety of Oriental designs and often found inspiration in western folk art traditions. The rug weaving workshop was called Marbediah. The name was derived from the Hebrew word “Marvard” which basically means “carpet”. These antique rugs are inscribed either Bezalel or Marvadiah.