The wedding gift that launched a thousand shippings

A new exhibit at the Bible Lands Museum, inspired by a personal quest to reclaim a lost loutrophoros, offers a singular glimpse at Greek artifacts that date back 3,500 years.

archeology framents  (photo credit: Courtesy)
archeology framents
(photo credit: Courtesy)
When Batya Borowski first set sight on a particular ancient Greek vessel, she became determined to call it her own. The vessel, an Attic red-figured loutrophoros, was used to hold water in the ritual of bathing a bride before her wedding. Though all vessels of this sort are distinguished by an elongated neck, this loutrophoros bears a painting of a wedding scene in which the groom is holding the bride's hand as he gazes at her. When Dr. Elie Borowski, founder of the Bible Lands Museum in Jerusalem, married Batya, he gave this exact vessel to her as a wedding gift. However, the museum was short on funds, thus forcing the Borowskis to sell the loutrophoros to Japan as a part of a collection. The collection remained in Japan for 10 years, was never displayed, and was then finally sold to a gallery in New York, where Borowski rediscovered her long-lost treasure. The Borowskis purchased the vessel again, along with many pieces of an ancient Greek collection, and Mrs. Borowski vowed that her wedding gift would never again leave her possession. This rare collection now resides in a newly renovated and reinstalled gallery at the Bible Lands Museum, known as the Glories of Ancient Greece. Borowski's very own loutrophoros sits in a glass case of its own. The exhibition includes handcrafted works that date back 3,500 years and span a period of over 2,000 years. Among the many pieces of intricately sculpted pottery with scenes from Greek mythology are Lekythoi; the tiny Corinthian vessels were used for oils and perfumes and exhibit the faces of Greek mythological heroes on a black background, first introduced by Corinthian culture as a new technique and design in Greek pottery. The jewelry collection in the gallery was made of the finest gold that is so fragile it could crumble in your hands. As the late Dr. Borowski once said, "The jewelry is so delicate that it is almost a miracle to think of the way it was made and the tools used to make them by Greek artisans 3,500 years ago." Many items, such as the Hellenistic gold wreath made of a series of dye-stamped laurel leaves, were found in fragments and had to be reconstructed before being put on display. In addition to the pottery, pieces of jewelry include scenes as well, such as a pair of earrings fashioned in the shape of a boat on which a man is serenading a woman with a guitar. The Glories of Ancient Greece, on loan from the private collections of Dr. and Mrs. Borowski, is the only collection of its kind and caliber in all of Israel. As Amanda Weiss, managing director of the museum, said, one would have to travel through Europe to find such an exquisite display of Classical art. When relaying the story behind the Attic loutrophoros, Borowski recalled her husband saying, "Athens is the center of beauty and aesthetics; Jerusalem is the center of the soul." With the installation of this priceless collection to the Bible Lands Museum, Jerusalem now encompasses both. n The museum is open Sunday-Thursday from 9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., and until 9:30 p.m. on Wednesday. Friday: 9:30 to 2 p.m. For admission fees and more information: