Installing ‘Imagining the Divine’ #5: 9th October

Jaś Elsner and Stefanie Lenk are blogging from behind the scenes during the installation of the Ashmolean Museum’s exhibition Imagining the Divine: Art and the Rise of World Religions, opening on October 19th. 

Jaś Elsner, 09/10/17, installation day 6, blog post 2

Monday morning. Ashmolean closed. So you can’t get coffee or anything. But constructing the stage-set continues…

The vast box from the V&A containing their great cloth cover for a Jewish Torah shrine, called a parochet, has arrived. Dated precisely to 1676, made of linen embroidered with silk and silver-gilt thread, this Venetian masterpiece is too big and too fragile to be often displayed. The team unscrew the bolts and lift off the upper casing. The cloth lies placid beneath the glass of its frame.


Close examination by the V&A’s travelling curator and the Ashmolean conservator to be sure nothing has been damaged in the transportation. All is well. Slight concern – seeing its size for the first time (how photographs lie) – that the wall on which it is to be mounted is not big enough.

blog 6 2

The contractors extract it from its box, gingerly moving towards the wall. Phew, it fits. Just. Need the spirit level to be sure it’s straight… I mean you never can be too sure.

blog 6 3

Some striking thoughts: if you look at the floor mosaic from 4th-century Palestine which we illustrate on the floor in the section of the exhibition on Jewish art, the Menorah symbol and the image of a shrine with curtains – which both appear on the parochet – have a history of well over a thousand years, that was unknown to the Venetian makers of our wonderful cloth…

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