by Itzhak Danzinger, 1939

Itzhak Danziger, Israeli, born Germany, 1916-1977
Nubian sandstone
95 x 33 x 33 cm
Gift of Dr. H. David Orgler, Zurich and Jerusalem
© Estate of the artist
Accession number: 600.81/761

Photo © IMJ, by Nahum Slapak

“And Cush begat Nimrod . . . He was a mighty hunter before the Lord" (Genesis 10:8–9)

Itzhak Danziger’s Nimrod has become an icon of Israeli art, celebrated at home and abroad. Radiating an almost mythical aura, it is perhaps the most powerful expression of the ethos of the emerging state and the simultaneous modernist and archaizing sensibilities of an artistic generation. Its creator studied at the Slade School of Fine Arts in London in the late 1930s and, like other sculptors of the time, was profoundly influenced by the Near Eastern antiquities displayed in the British Museum. In 1939 Danziger returned to Palestine, where his studio became the meeting place and workshop for a group of young artists who considered themselves “Canaanites” and sought to return to the country’s pre-Jewish cultural roots.

As a member of this unofficial group, Danziger chose to work with red-hued sandstone brought from Petra, a material he chose partly because of its earthy color and local connotations, but also because he wanted to avoid classical materials such as marble and bronze. Deeply influenced by Egyptian art, he borrowed the motif of the hunting bird for his version of Nimrod—characterized as a fierce hunter in Hebrew sources—from the Egyptian statue of Pharaoh Chephren (Fourth Dynasty). Danziger’s sandstone figure of the biblical hero is one of the first early modern Israeli sculptures to depict a naked human figure. By omitting its legs, he alludes to fragments of ancient archaeological relics, metaphorically relating the work to the pagan Near Eastern past.

Zalmona, Yigal, ed., The Israel Museum at 40: Masterworks of Beauty and Sanctity, The Israel Museum, Jerusalem, 2005
The Israel Museum, Publisher: Harry N. Abrams, Inc., 2005