Cast two-piece folding knife with sterling case and two folding stainless steel blades; case constructed from two cast halves secured with inner bolts that serve as hinges to facilitate folding of blades. Case decorated with motifs cast into each half; obverse ornamented with contiguous symbols of the twelve tribes of Israel framed with tablet-shaped rope surrounds: tree symbolizes tribe of Asher; grapes, Joseph; wolf, Benjamin; tent, Gad; stag, Naftali; snake, Dan; ship, Zebulon; donkey, Issachar; lion, Judah; ewer, Simeon; sunrise over ocean, Reuben. Reverse decorated with image of grape vine, grape bunch with grape leaves, and grape leaves.
This folding knife was probably created by an artist affiliated with the renowned Bezalel School of Art founded in 1906 in Jerusalem. Boris Schatz, a Jewish artist from Bulgaria who had started the Sofia Royal Academy of Art, established the Jerusalem school during a period of increasing European Jewish immigration to Palestine. Schatz’s mission was to develop an artistic style representative of the anticipated independent Jewish homeland by teaching artists and artisans to synthesize European and Middle Eastern designs and techniques. Bezalel artists and artisans created works in a “Hebrew style” that integrated Hebrew characters, Jewish ritual symbols, and biblical scenes into Art Nouveau, Arts and Crafts, and Bauhaus inflected paintings, textiles, metalwork, and graphic designs. The school was immediately successful and still exists today. Bezalel School artists made a lasting impact on twentieth- and twenty-first-century Judaica, as many subsequently brought the school’s mission to European and American art schools. In New York, the Tobe Pascher Workshop for the Creation of Modern Judaica established at the Jewish Museum in 1956 was headed by Bezalel-trained silversmith, Ludwig Wolpert (1900-1981).
This item belonged to Victor Wouk before being passed on to the donor. The folding knife was probably purchased by him in the 1950s during one of several trips to Israel to visit his grandfather, who relocated there in 1952.