Dinah Ehrenfreund at the Jewish Museum of Switzerland

Bernhard Friedländer, Seder Plate, Düsseldorf, 1913-1926, JMS 529.

Bernhard Friedländer, Lulav- and Etrog Holder, Düsseldorf or Tel Aviv 1925-1940, JMS 764

Bernhard Friedländer, Jug for Kiddush-Wine, Düsseldorf 1913-1926, JMS 1550.

«I’m curious about unusual design.»

Dinah Ehrenfreund on Bernhard Friedländer

Cura­tor Dinah Ehren­freund iden­ti­fied three works by Bern­hard Fried­län­der, a near­ly-for­got­ten sil­vers­mith, in the Jewish Museum’s coll­ec­tion. Muse­um direc­tor Nao­mi Lubrich asked her about Friedländer’s signi­fi­can­ce for the histo­ry of Judai­ca design and about post­hu­mously reco­gni­zing artists who have been undu­ly forgotten.

Nao­mi Lubrich: Dear Dinah, you iden­ti­fied works of the sil­vers­mith Bern­hard Fried­län­der in our Judai­ca coll­ec­tion. Who was he? 

Dinah Ehren­freund: Bern­hard Fried­län­der was born around 1880 in Czen­sto­ch­au, in what is now Pol­and. He trai­ned as a golds­mith, sil­vers­mith and stone set­ter in Łódź, Ode­sa, Tbi­li­si and Ber­lin. From 1904, he work­ed in Ger­ma­ny, with stops in Ber­lin, Munich, Essen and Bonn. In 1913, he set up his own busi­ness in Düs­sel­dorf and pro­du­ced uni­que Judai­ca, both for pri­va­te use and for syn­ago­gues. He was well-recei­ved: his works were shown in exhi­bi­ti­ons such as the GeSoL­ei in Düs­sel­dorf in 1926, in the USA in 1927 and at the Kult und Form exhi­bi­ti­on in various cities from 1930 onwards. He was applau­ded in news­pa­pers and ency­clo­paed­i­as. His most crea­ti­ve peri­od was in Düs­sel­dorf from 1913 to 1928. In 1928 he moved to Ant­werp, and in 1932 he emi­gra­ted to Tel Aviv in what was then Man­da­te Pal­es­ti­ne. Bes­i­des some uni­que cha­nuk­ka lamps, he pro­du­ced lar­ge num­bers of Judai­ca and sil­ver­wa­re – mass-pro­du­ced goods, if you will. Fried­län­der died in 1941.

NL: Bern­hard Fried­län­der is litt­le-known today. Why?

DE: Bern­hard Friedländer’s most sophisti­ca­ted works remain­ed in Ger­ma­ny and were des­troy­ed during the Nazi era. In Tel Aviv, he made cand­le­sticks, cha­nuk­ka lamps, kid­dush cups and sil­ver­wa­re, which were less unu­su­al. Some peo­p­le, espe­ci­al­ly Israe­lis, know his firm, Mich­saf, which still exists today. But few know it was foun­ded by Fried­län­der, who sold it long befo­re he died. A last reason is Friedländer’s some­what ear­ly death in 1941, at age six­ty. By con­trast, Yehu­da Wol­pert, who work­ed in Friedländer’s Tel Aviv work­shop for two years and then as a tea­cher at the Beza­lel Aca­de­my of Art and Design, lived until 1981. Wol­pert also found much accla­im for the modern works he crea­ted. Today, Wol­pert is remem­be­red as the inven­tor of modern Judai­ca. But Wolpert’s recep­ti­on over­looks the inno­va­ti­ve work of many artists in Ger­ma­ny befo­re 1938, such as Bern­hard Friedländer.

NL: You stu­di­ed a seder pla­te in the JMS coll­ec­tion. What is spe­cial about it?

DE: The seder pla­te dates from 1925/26 and has an unu­su­al deca­go­nal, ten-sided shape. Illus­tra­ti­ons of bibli­cal, his­to­ri­cal and modern sce­nes flank the edges. The Hebrew inscrip­ti­ons are lite­ra­ry refe­ren­ces. You could talk about this pie­ce at the cent­re of the seder table all evening!

NL: So your inte­rest in Bern­hard Fried­län­der is not purely an aes­the­tic preference.

DE: No. I’m inte­res­ted in the sto­ries behind the objects, how they found their way into the muse­um coll­ec­tion and what how they were pre­vious­ly used. I’m less inte­res­ted in a par­ti­cu­lar aes­the­tic tas­te. I’m very curious about unu­su­al design, such as Bern­hard Friedländer’s Judaica.

NL: Dinah, thank you for your insight into Judai­ca design!

verfasst am 05.02.2024