Preface for The Collection
By Gerald A. Larue
It is a pleasure and an honor to write the preface for this dramatic
representation of objets d’art in the magnificent collection of
Outside of well-renowned museums, this is, without doubt, one of the
finest assemblages of its kind anywhere in the world. What is depicted
in this volume is only a fraction of the total collection that includes
marvelous marble sculptings, exquisite glass vessels, figures of ancient
gods and goddesses in silver, bronze, stone, and clay, as well as priceless
jewelry. Bronze, silver, and gold coins – some mounted to be worn
as jewelry, some in sets for collectors – precious scarabs and
seals, beautiful icons, together with more commonplace oil lamps and
household vessels from the ancient past complement this wonderful exhibition
of creative artistry.
When I first met Fayez (who is also known as Viktor) in 1967, I was
on leave from the University of Southern California to continue research
in archaeology as a resident fellow of Hebrew Union College in Jerusalem.
Fayez was seventeen years old – a bright, personable young man,
amazingly well informed about archaeology – a subject that had
fascinated him since earliest childhood. He is of the fourth generation
of the Barakat family, which is well known for its collection of ancient
Middle Eastern art. His grandfather, who owned large vineyards near
Jerusalem was keenly aware of the aesthetic beauty of artifacts unearthed
from time to time as his fields were plowed or when tombs were found
on his property. He encouraged workmen to bring the objects to him for
As a young boy Fayez worked beside the famous British archaeologist,
Dr. Kathleen Kenyon, sorting and identifying shards from her excavation
in the ancient Jerusalem of King David’s time. Fayez became familiar
with pottery classifications and with the basic principles of field
His facility in learning languages was startling. With his photographic
memory he could quickly master a new language, including vocabulary
and grammar, and conduct intelligent conversations with visitors from
different countries in Europe in their native languages.
At the age of fourteen, when he was deeply engrossed in reading medical
textbooks in preparation for his intended career in medicine, he met
Father James McGuire of Loyola University. The reverend father, as a
good teacher, put Fayez to the test. He thumbed through the texts and
asked questions of the young man. So impressed was he by Fayez’s
answer that he offered him a Fullbright scholarship.
When the papers arrived in Jerusalem, Fayez’s father distressed
at the thought of being separated from his son, quietly secreted the
documents until the time for accepting the invitation had elapsed.
During 1967 artifacts from plundered tombs in the hill country west
of Hebron began to stream into Jerusalem. Fayez, like other merchants,
made purchases from the villagers. He acquired numerous common household
objects from periods extending from Middle Bronze I (2100-1900 B.C.
) through the Byzantine era (A.D. sixth century). Soon he began to accept
only those choice items that represented the finest statements of the
ancient craftsman’s art.
About this same time, Dr. Nelson Glueck, president of Hebrew Union College,
a world-renowned scholar and archaeologist, invited Fayez to attend
classes in the Jerusalem school. Soon he was enrolled in courses taught
by the eminent Middle Eastern archaeologist, Dr. William Denver. Under
the guidance of Father Spiekerman, director of the Museum of the Flagellation
at the Second Station of the cross in Jerusalem, he researched ancient
coinage. He read and studied archaeological journals, excavation reports,
and the best sources in art history. Consequently, he has become one
of those unique individuals whose knowledge combines the results of
classroom studies, extensive reading and research, and practical field
experience with intimate familiarity with artifacts developed through
handling thousands of items.
Today, Fayez is more than a merchant; he is a connoisseur devoted to
a dream. He believes he owes something to the archaeologists and instructors
who helped develop his expertise-and indeed, to all who probe the past
and help us appreciate our rich human heritage. He has undertaken a
duty to preserve the past and to save from possible damage and loss
these exquisite artistic statements. He has witnessed the destruction
of precious ancient objects by simple villagers who feared fines for
possession of such items or perhaps confiscation by the government of
the land on which they were found. Once an artifact is destroyed, whatever
it might tell us of the past is beyond recovery and its usefulness as
a clue to the understanding the creative spirit is forever lost.
Fayez asked himself, "what can I do to preserve these precious
objects for posterity?" He knew that an item sold by a merchant
to a collector might remain in the new owner’s possession for
a generation, but there was a good chance that it would ultimately end
up in a museum.
He decided to do two things: on the one hand he would become a merchant
for these museum-quality treasures; on the other hand he would lay plans
for the Barakat Family Museum that would one day house these most exquisite
expressions of the ancient past. This is his continuing dream and together
with his deep love of beauty and creativity, this is what motivates
To some he may appear open to the charge of encouraging vandalism because
he purchases objects from plundered sites. But the protection of ancient
sites is the responsibility of the respective governments. Once an object
has been removed from its setting its true provenance is forever lost.
Fayez Barakat is salvaging art objects for future generations. What
he has gathered, as illustrated in this volume, testifies to the validity
of his dream. His magnificent, ever-expanding collection now includes
objects from biblical lands, Africa, Europe, and the Americas. Here
he provides pictorial evidence of his splendid collection. Here are
exceptional expressions of ancient craftsmanship. Here is beauty from
our most distant past.
Those who have the privilege of meeting Fayez Barakat at his place of
business on Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills, California, or in Jerusalem,
or in Bethlehem where he has other shops, discover the warm charm that
has endeared him to so many. Behind the quiet, calm businessman there
lies the devoted connoisseur, the true expert, the man in love with
what he is doing. His delightful sense of humor, his integrity, his
deep concern for human kind, his love for people in the present and
for things from the past, his ability to talk about important life issues
with wisdom and compassion are now richly enhanced by what was not present
when I first knew him in 1967 – the support of his beautiful,
caring wife, Malak, and their two delightful children, Sufian and Joanna.
The Barakat Collection is so large, so magnificent, so splendid that
it staggers the mind. On every shelf there are rare, exquisite, beautiful
objects in gold, in silver, in ivory, and in stone. Some are huge like
the sculpture of Alexander the Great, or the basalt lintel with carved
menorah in the style of the Second-Temple period, or the carved marble
sarcophagus. Some are of delicately laced gold like the Hellenistic
hairnet, some are of wrought glass including perfume vials and vessels
with human faces.
The collection will continue to grow. Those of us who have the privilege
of enjoying it owe a lasting debt of gratitude to Fayez Barakat for
making these marvelous works of art accessible to us and for displaying
them in this splendid volume.
GERALD A. LARUE
Emeritus Professor of Biblical History and Archaeology
Adjunct Professor of Gerontology
University of Southern California