Biblical Archaeology Review 11:2, March/April 1985

Elie Borowski Seeks a Home for His Collection

By Hershel Shanks

Eliechish, his brothers called him. Elie the dreamer. He does not deny it; he is a dreamer. Today he is 71 years old and still dreaming. One of Elie Borowski’s dreams is 20 years old. Whether it will ever be realized is still an open question.

He tries to suppress his anger and frustration, but it spills out all over. “Please, Elie, don’t say it,” his wife pleads. He cannot be stopped; he is a compulsive talker anyway. He has given so much; why shouldn’t others be willing to do even a tiny fraction of what he has done?

Elie Borowski is one of the last—perhaps the last—of the great scholar-dealer-collectors of Near Eastern antiquities. He has a doctor’s degree from the University of Geneva. He has published a fistful of arcane articles in learned journals. He has shaped collections for a dozen museums and private collectors. But above all, he has created his own collection—the crème de la crème, as he calls it, the finest and the rarest.

At his palatial home in Toronto, we were looking at his vast collection of ancient seals, in many ways the core of his collection. “Do you have any cylinder seal pins that hung on bracelets or necklaces?” I asked. “Don’t ask what I have,” he thundered. “Ask what I don’t have. Ask the Metropolitan what they have.” No one ever accused Elie Borowski of undue modesty.

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