Congregation Shaara Tfille and The Jewish Community Center of Saratoga Springs is delighted to invite you to a private, virtual tour of ‘The Hare with Amber Eyes’ exhibition at The Jewish Museum in New York City. It will be held on Wednesday, March 30 at 7 p.m. This fascinating exhibition tells the story of the Ephrussi family which was the subject of The New York Times bestseller written by Edmund de Waal.
The hour-long program will conclude with an opportunity for questions and answers. This is a limited event. For reservations, contact firstname.lastname@example.org. The tour is complimentary and open to the entire community; however, donations are encouraged to benefit Congregation Shaara Tfille and The Jewish Community Center for future cultural events. This program is sponsored by a generous grant from the Jewish Federation of Northeast New York.
The virtual tour of The Hare with Amber Eyes explores the family’s rise to prominence and splendor in the first half of the 19th century, followed by a focus on the prolific collector and historian of art, Charles Ephrussi, to the inter-war years, and finally World War II, when the family lost its fortune and collection to Nazi looting. Diller Scofidio + Renfro, worked closely with de Waal and the Jewish Museum, to create an interpretive installation using family and loaned artifacts that trace the turbulent history of their movements through place and time. The architecturally distinguished homes the Ephrussi family inhabited over the course of generations evoke within the domestic setting of the Jewish Museum and brought to life through excerpts from de Waal’s memoir.
The exhibition brings together pieces from the Ephrussi’s collections to examine the ways in which objects can function as storytellers, symbols of resilience, and monuments of a family legacy, including artworks by Jean-Honoré Fragonard, Berthe Morisot, Claude Monet, Gustave Moreau and Auguste Renoir, among others; decorative objects; and family photos and ephemera from their lives across four continents. At the exhibition’s centerpiece is the extraordinary collection of Japanese netsuke, miniature carved sculptures of the Edo Period (17th-19th centuries), hidden by a maid from German officials in her mattress during World War II, and later returned to the family after the war. The collection of netsuke has since been handed down to subsequent generations, serving as a connection between the past and the present. The most recent member of the family to inherit the collection, author and ceramicist Edmund de Waal, drew from them the inspiration for his memoir The Hare with Amber Eyes, continuing the family’s storied legacy of artistic and cultural pursuits.
The Hare with Amber Eyes traces the Ephrussi family’s progression, beginning with Charles Joachim Ephrussi (1793-1864), who built a vast fortune through grain distribution and the oil industry in Odessa. His descendants continued to grow the family’s wealth and influence as financiers, becoming peers of the Rothschild family, and expanding their presence across the major capitals of Europe. In Vienna, Charles’s son Ignace (1829-1899) founded the Ephrussi & Co bank, eventually receiving the noble title of Knight (Ritter). The Ephrussis achieved high social status as leading participants in the imperial city’s flourishing economic and architectural sectors and were known for their cultural and intellectual contributions. Reflecting their success, the family commissioned the Palais Ephrussi, a noble residence on the famed Ringstrasse. The family owned castles and estates throughout Europe, including the famous Villa Ephrussi de Rothschild on the French Riviera.
The Ephrussis became a major target as anti-semitisim grew in the late 19th and 20th centuries. During World War II, the family found refuge in exile, making their way to England, America, and Mexico. They lost their vast fortune and priceless art collection to the Nazis and were unable to recover their wealth and most of their property in the aftermath of the war. One exception was the collection of netsuke, featured prominently in this exhibition.
The book, The Hare with Amber Eyes, has won many literary honors including the RSL Ondaatje Prize and the Costa Biography Award and has been translated into over 30 languages. In 2015, de Waal was awarded the prestigious Windham-Campbell Prize for Non-Fiction by Yale University. It was chosen as the Independent Bookshop Week's Book of the Decade in 2016.
Sponsor: Jewish Federation of NENY