This project reconstructs the likeness of Maimonides, one of the most important figures in Judaism and an influential intellectual in Islamic culture. The installation echoes an exhibit in a wax museum, with a sculpture which was sculpted by Michaeli—based on an old Israeli bill, wearing historically accurate clothes—fabricated by a fabric merchant according to a Palestinian folktale.
Maimonides's Attire, installation view at HaKibbutz Gallery, 2011
The installation consists of a life-like size mannequin, installed behind a display window with a green curtain in the background, and a complimentary video. Visitors were able to draw the curtain, approach the sculpture and take pictures with it, similar to a wax museum experience.
In the accompanying video, Bilal Abu-Khalaf, a fabric merchant from Old Jerusalem, recounts a Palestinian folktale about Saladin and Maimonides. The folktale is considered historically accurate; it revolves around Saladin’s visit in Jerusalem, during which he fell sick. After many doctors failed to cure him, he was finally healed by Maimonides. As a token of gratitude, Saladin gave Maimonides a custom-made ornate jellabiya.
Maimonides's Attire, Mixed-media, 1.5 x 6 x 1', 2011
The sculpture includes a jalabiya, a turban, a keffiyeh and shoulder bands (cotton fabric, silk thread, woven Damascus fabric [silk and 14K gold], raw silk, a full-body mannequin with a polyester cast, gold-plated brass pendant, inlaid with a 1 NIS coin, and a 1000 NIS bill.
The portrait displayed on the bill has a tenuous connection with the real facial features of Maimonides; a closer look reveals that it can not be a genuine depiction and instead is, most likely, a portrait of a Muslim nobleman. This is indicated by the shape of the beard and especially the shaved sideburns, which is forbidden by Jewish law.