2015 sees Pierre Bergé & Associés
developing its expertise in the area of Jewish ceremonial art: Judaica and creating a new department that cements the auction houses presence in the collectors market as well as in the traditional cultural universe of the worlds oldest monotheistic religion.
To mark the occasion, an auction of the Isucher Ber Frydman collection, which has never been subject to public sale before, has been organized for June 23, 2015.
Isucher Ber Frydman, a man of proven good taste whose course in life was dramatically changed by the twists and turns of history, set out to create a collection that would breathe life back into the buried memories of European culture.
The 150 lots up for auction offer a rare mix of objects and manuscripts that bear witness to the refinement of Jewish culture from the 17th to the 20th century.
They are evidence of a culture and an ensemble of customs linked to the worlds oldest monotheistic religion, and testify to the extraordinary talent of its metalworkers and jewelers. The pieces belong to a heritage subjected to destruction numerous times, vestiges of which remain nonetheless.
Each piece is proof that Jewish communities have existed in various European cities, where they lived and prospered, adopting the social and aesthetic codes of their environments. The fact that local artisans were commissioned to make objects required for the daily practice of Judaism is the mark of Jewish integration in these regions, explains Jacqueline Frydman.
Judaica pieces very often have a religious function, while remaining aesthetically pleasing and decorative. Such is the case of hanukit, besamim, yad and Kiddush goblets.
Among the pieces that make up the collection, of particular note are the representations of a mother attaching an amulet around her newborns cradle in 18th-century Venice, of a hazan proudly carrying a Torah adorned with a plate and crown in Galicia in the early 19th century, and of a Pourim holiday somewhere in the Ottoman Empire at the end of the 19th century, in which the scroll of Esther is taken out of its precious case. Other pieces include a series of finely sculpted spice racks, Hanukah lamps, Kiddush cups, menorah and mezuzah. The key creations are the Torah crown in silver and vermeil created in the 19th century and decorated with a multitude of animals, the ornamental Torah plaque in silver made in Wroclaw in 1777 by master silversmith Johann Ernst Braungart and bearing the Hebrew inscription: belonging to Yehoshua shapira and his wife Rivka, as well as the spice rack crafted in Venice in the 18th century.
The choice of each piece corresponds to criteria of rarity and aesthetics. He liked noble materials: gold, silver, bronze, copper, tin. He had a preference for the 17th and 18th centuries, and was particularly attracted to Italy during the Renaissance. He loved objects whose beauty expressed a relationship between the user and the artisan of the period based on excellence and quality, says Jacqueline Frydman.
The man behind the collection
A Polish Jew, survivor of the Warsaw ghetto and trained chemical engineer, Isucher Ber Frydman put his skills to good use upon his arrival in France in 1947 by becoming a manufacturer of plastic objects. A tireless worker, he developed his business and turned his workshop into a toy factory.
His passion and his curiosity as an insatiable collector drove him to travel all over Europe and to correspond with experts, antique dealers and museum curators, setting off in search of objects that fascinated him and bore proof of a heritage that history attempted to erase forever.
The maker of yoyos, woven bracelets and hula hoops also allowed himself to be introspective. Through the joyful, colorful and lively creation of toysin plastic no less (famed at the time for being light, unbreakable, hygienic and cheap)he became, from the 1960s until his death in 1983, a collector and lover of Judaica. My father kept his collection at his home in a huge French 18th-century mahogany bookshelf in a room he referred to as his study. The bookshelf was locked and the objects meticulously arranged within.
He only liked showing his collection to certain visitors: painter friends from the École de Paris, writers, Yiddish journalists, merchants or collectors like himself. He didnt talk much about it, he showed it. He was more expressive when he opened it for my university friends who asked him about it; he took pleasure in explaining it, and carefully analyzed their gazes or questions to see if they were truly interested and if it was worth passing down the memory that these objects carried onto them, explains Jacqueline Frydman.