Shlomo Moussaieff of Herzliya, Israel, and London, England, who owned the world’s largest private collection of Near Eastern antiquities, surpassing that of many major museums, died in Israel on June 29, 2015, at the age of 92.
To the very end, he never stopped buying. “Pay and they will bring you,” he would say. And antiquities dealers, both legitimate and otherwise, would beat a path to his door both on Grosvenor Square in London and on the entire 14th floor of the Daniel Hotel in Herzliya. He had no concern for whether the object was looted or not. If he didn’t buy it, someone else would, was his credo.
There was no end to what he would buy, although his collection of Judaica was an especial focus of his last years.
Many scholars despised him, especially archaeologists who spend their lives digging with a toothbrush to unearth details of our past that are sometimes rich in meaning but mostly unimpressive physically. Other scholars welcomed the opportunity to bring to the public rare and often important artifacts, especially inscriptions, which, they argued, were of great significance to our understanding of ancient history and would otherwise be lost to us.
Major museums in Israel, including the Israel Museum and the Bible Lands Museum—both in Jerusalem—displayed items from his collection, including, for example, elegant glass fashioned by Ennion, the greatest of the Greek glassmakers, of which Moussaieff owned more than either the Sorbonne or the British Museum—to say nothing of the Metropolitan in New York.