A Preface for The Collection
By Gerald A. Larue
It is a pleasure and an honor to write
the preface for this dramatic representation of objets dart in the
magnificent collection of Fayez Barakat.
Outside of well-renowned museums, this is, without doubt,
one of the finest assemblages of its kind anywhere in the world. What
is depicted in this volume is only a fraction of the total collection
that includes marvelous marble sculptings, exquisite glass vessels, figures
of ancient gods and goddesses in silver, bronze, stone, and clay, as well
as priceless jewelry. Bronze, silver, and gold coins some mounted
to be worn as jewelry, some in sets for collectors precious scarabs
and seals, beautiful icons, together with more commonplace oil lamps and
household vessels from the ancient past complement this wonderful exhibition
of creative artistry.
When I first met Fayez (who is also known as Viktor)
in 1967, I was on leave from the University of Southern California to
continue research in archaeology as a resid
ent fellow of Hebrew Union College in Jerusalem. Fayez
was seventeen years old a bright, personable young man, amazingly
well informed about archaeology a subject that had fascinated him
since earliest childhood. He is of the fourth generation of the Barakat
family, which is well known for its collection of ancient Middle Eastern
art. His grandfather, who owned large vineyards near Jerusalem was keenly
aware of the aesthetic beauty of artifacts unearthed from time to time
as his fields were plowed or when tombs were found on his property. He
encouraged workmen to bring the objects to him for preservation.
As a young boy Fayez worked beside the famous British
archaeologist, Dr. Kathleen Kenyon, sorting and identifying shards from
her excavation in the ancient Jerusalem of King Davids time. Fayez
became familiar with pottery classifications and with the basic principles
of field archaeology.
His facility in learning languages was startling. With
his photographic memory he could quickly master a new language, including
vocabulary and grammar, and conduct intelligent conversations with visitors
from different countries in Europe in their native languages.
At the age of fourteen, when he was deeply engrossed
in reading medical textbooks in preparation for his intended career in
medicine, he met Father James McGuire of Loyola University. The reverend
father, as a good teacher, put Fayez to the test. He thumbed through the
texts and asked questions of the young man. So impressed was he by Fayezs
answer that he offered him a Fullbright scholarship.
When the papers arrived in Jerusalem, Fayezs father
distressed at the thought of being separated from his son, quietly secreted
the documents until the time for accepting the invitation had elapsed.
During 1967 artifacts from plundered tombs in the hill
country west of Hebron began to stream into Jerusalem. Fayez, like other
merchants, made purchases from the villagers. He acquired numerous common
household objects from periods extending from Middle Bronze I (2100-1900
B.C. ) through the Byzantine era (A.D. sixth century). Soon he began to
accept only those choice items that represented the finest statements
of the ancient craftsmans art.
About this same time, Dr. Nelson Glueck, president of
Hebrew Union College, a world-renowned scholar and archaeologist, invited
Fayez to attend classes in the Jerusalem school. Soon he was enrolled
in courses taught by the eminent Middle Eastern archaeologist, Dr. William
Denver. Under the guidance of Father Spiekerman, director of the Museum
of the Flagellation at the Second Station of the cross in Jerusalem, he
researched ancient coinage. He read and studied archaeological journals,
excavation reports, and the best sources in art history. Consequently,
he has become one of those unique individuals whose knowledge combines
the results of classroom studies, extensive reading and research, and
practical field experience with intimate familiarity with artifacts developed
through handling thousands of items.
Today, Fayez is more than a merchant; he is a connoisseur
devoted to a dream. He believes he owes something to the archaeologists
and instructors who helped develop his expertise-and indeed, to all who
probe the past and help us appreciate our rich human heritage. He has
undertaken a duty to preserve the past and to save from possible damage
and loss these exquisite artistic statements. He has witnessed the destruction
of precious ancient objects by simple villagers who feared fines for possession
of such items or perhaps confiscation by the government of the land on
which they were found. Once an artifact is destroyed, whatever it might
tell us of the past is beyond recovery and its usefulness as a clue to
the understanding the creative spirit is forever lost.
Fayez asked himself, "what can I do to preserve these
precious objects for posterity?" He knew that an item sold by a merchant
to a collector might remain in the new owners possession for a generation,
but there was a good chance that it would ultimately end up in a museum.
He decided to do two things: on the one hand he would
become a merchant for these museum-quality treasures; on the other hand
he would lay plans for the Barakat Family Museum that would one day house
these most exquisite expressions of the ancient past. This is his continuing
dream and together with his deep love of beauty and creativity, this is
what motivates him.
To some he may appear open to the charge of encouraging
vandalism because he purchases objects from plundered sites. But the protection
of ancient sites is the responsibility of the respective governments.
Once an object has been removed from its setting its true provenance is
forever lost. Fayez Barakat is salvaging art objects for future generations.
What he has gathered, as illustrated in this volume, testifies to the
validity of his dream. His magnificent, ever-expanding collection now
includes objects from biblical lands, Africa, Europe, and the Americas.
Here he provides pictorial evidence of his splendid collection. Here are
exceptional expressions of ancient craftsmanship. Here is beauty from
our most distant past.
Those who have the privilege of meeting Fayez Barakat
at his place of business on Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills, California,
or in Jerusalem, or in Bethlehem where he has other shops, discover the
warm charm that has endeared him to so many. Behind the quiet, calm businessman
there lies the devoted connoisseur, the true expert, the man in love with
what he is doing. His delightful sense of humor, his integrity, his deep
concern for human kind, his love for people in the present and for things
from the past, his ability to talk about important life issues with wisdom
and compassion are now richly enhanced by what was not present when I
first knew him in 1967 the support of his beautiful, caring wife,
Malak, and their two delightful children, Sufian and Joanna.
The Barakat Collection is so large, so magnificent, so
splendid that it staggers the mind. On every shelf there are rare, exquisite,
beautiful objects in gold, in silver, in ivory, and in stone. Some are
huge like the sculpture of Alexander the Great, or the basalt lintel with
carved menorah in the style of the Second-Temple period, or the carved
marble sarcophagus. Some are of delicately laced gold like the Hellenistic
hairnet, some are of wrought glass including perfume vials and vessels
with human faces.
The collection will continue to grow. Those of us who
have the privilege of enjoying it owe a lasting debt of gratitude to Fayez
Barakat for making these marvelous works of art accessible to us and for
displaying them in this splendid volume.
GERALD A. LARUE
Emeritus Professor of Biblical History and Archaeology
Adjunct Professor of Gerontology
University of Southern California