COLLEGE McMULLEN MUSEUM OF ART HOSTS Tree of Paradise: Jewish
Mosaics from the Roman Empire February 17 – June 8, 2008;
Exclusive New England Display
CHESTNUT HILL, MA (2-08) — The McMullen Museum
of Art at Boston College hosts Tree of Paradise: Jewish Mosaics
the Roman Empire, on view February 17 through June 8, 2008.
According to the Brooklyn Museum—which organized the
exhibition and first displayed it in 2005-2006—it examines
the role of Roman-period mosaics in the development of synagogue
decoration in the late Roman Empire.
The exhibition presents the reconstruction of an ancient mosaic
floor from a synagogue in Hammam Lif, Tunisia—the ancient
town of Naro, later called Aquae Persianae by the Romans.
Superbly conceived by the Brooklyn Museum to pose larger questions
about links among various faith communities in Late Antiquity,
this exhibition and its public programs draw on strengths of
the Boston College faculty’s research and curriculum
and on the University’s commitment to exploring the relationship
among Jews, Christians and Muslims from antiquity to the present,” according
to McMullen Museum Director and Professor of Art History Nancy
Netzer. “We look forward to welcoming at the McMullen
visitors from all three faith groups.”
A Latin inscription in one of the surviving panels records
that the mosaic floor was a gift to the synagogue from a certain
Julia, a resident of Naro in about 500 C.E. Other mosaic panels
in the exhibition, datable to the first or second century C.E.,
originated either in an earlier part of the same synagogue
or in a nearby building.
The mosaics were discovered by chance in 1883 by a French army
captain, Ernest de Prudhomme, while preparing ground for gardening.
In 1905, the Brooklyn Museum acquired most of the panels Prudhomme
had owned and transported back to his home in Lyon. According
to Ruth Langer, associate professor of Jewish Studies in the
Theology Department and academic director of the Center for
Christian-Jewish Learning at Boston College, “Today,
these panels provide a fascinating contrast to the much richer
archaeological evidence for synagogues of this period now known
from the Land of Israel.”
Twenty-one mosaics—along with some 40 works from the
Brooklyn Museum’s Roman art collection, including contemporary
jewelry, coins, marble statues, ritual objects and textiles—shed
light on the role of synagogues in the Diaspora during Late
Antiquity, the development of Jewish art in the Roman period,
the importance of female patrons in the ancient Jewish community,
connections among early Christian, Jewish and Pagan symbolism
in this period, and the relationship between ancient and modern
understanding of the synagogue as an institution. The works
of art included in the exhibition reveal a society where Jews
were more integrated and accepted than ancient texts would
The exhibition will also feature nine Tiraz textiles from the
Brooklyn Museum collection which illuminate the role of Islam
in North Africa in the Middle Ages.
The McMullen Museum is the second venue in a three-city tour,
which marks the first time the mosaics have left New York since
their acquisition by the Brooklyn Museum, according to curator
Edward Bleiberg, from that institution. The tour began in September
in Ohio at the Dayton Art Institute; after the BC exhibition,
it travels in fall 2009 to Miami’s Lowe Art Museum. [MEDIA
NOTE: Jpg images available upon request from the Museum: email
Naomi Blumberg at firstname.lastname@example.org]
Public Opening Celebration: Monday, February 18 On Monday,
February 18, the public is invited to join Boston College community
members at an opening celebration, which is free of charge
and will be held at the Museum from 7 to 9 p.m. The public
event will be preceded, on February 16, by a black-tie celebration
for invited guests, which will include an introduction to the
exhibition by BC Art History professors from the Fine Arts
Department, as well as faculty members from the University’s
History, Classical Studies and Theology departments.
Exhibition Organizers and Accompanying Catalogue
Tree of Paradise: Jewish Mosaics from the Roman Empire is organized
by the Brooklyn Museum and made possible by the Martha A. and
Robert S. Rubin Exhibition Fund. The presentation of this exhibition
at the McMullen Museum is underwritten by Boston College with
major support from the Lassor and Fanny Agoos Charity Fund.
Additional funding was provided by the Patrons of the McMullen
A catalogue by the exhibition’s curator, Edward Bleiberg,
associate curator of Egyptian, Classical and Ancient Middle
Eastern Art at the Brooklyn Museum, accompanies the exhibition.
McMullen Museum of Art
The McMullen Museum is renowned for
organizing interdisciplinary exhibitions that ask new questions
and break new ground in the display and scholarship of the
works on view. It serves as a dynamic educational resource
for all of New England as well as the national and the
international community. The Museum displays its notable permanent
collection and mounts exhibitions of international scholarly
importance from all periods and cultures of the history of
art. In keeping with the University’s central teaching
mission, the Museum’s exhibitions are accom-panied by
scholarly catalogues and related public programs. The McMullen
Museum of Art was named in 1996 by the late Boston College
benefactor, trustee and art collector John J. McMullen.
McMullen Museum Hours and Tours Admission to the McMullen Museum
is free; it is handicapped accessible and open to the public.
The Museum is located in Devlin Hall on BC’s Chestnut
Hill campus, at 140 Common-wealth Avenue. During this exhibition,
hours are: Monday through Friday, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.; Saturday
and Sunday from noon to 5 p.m. Closed on the following dates:
March 21 and 23, April 21 and May 26, 2008.
Free group tours of the exhibition will be given every Sunday
at 12:30 p.m. They also may be arranged upon request; call
(617) 552-8587. For directions, parking and information on
public programs, visit www.bc.edu/artmuseum or call (617) 552-8100.