The Hare With Amber Eyes


The Hare with Amber Eyes tells the story of the Ephrussi family—celebrated in the 2010 memoir and The New York Times bestseller of the same name by Edmund de Waal—and showcases the breadth and depth of their illustrious collection. The exhibition, on view at the Jewish Museum from November 19, 2021 through May 15, 2022, explores the family’s rise to prominence and splendor in the first half of the nineteenth century, followed by a focus on the prolific collector and historian of art, Charles Ephrussi, to the inter-war years, and finally World War II, when the family lost its fortune and collection to Nazi looting.

Diller Scofidio + Renfro, working closely with de Waal and the Jewish Museum, created an interpretive installation using art and artifacts, loaned variously by the family and by other cultural institutions. These items trace the turbulent history of the Ephrussi’s movements through place and time. The domestic setting of the Jewish Museum evokes the architecturally distinguished homes the Ephrussi family inhabited over the course of generations. Their stories are brought to life through audio excerpts from The Hare with Amber Eyes read by Edmund de Waal and encountered by visitors at specific locations throughout the exhibition, giving context to the wide range of objects on display. An audio playback device and headphones will be available to borrow, and infrared triggers will signal the devices to play audio clips as visitors tour the exhibition.

The exhibition brings together pieces from the Ephrussi’s collections to examine the ways in which objects can function as storytellers, symbols of resilience, and monuments of a family legacy, including artworks by Jean-Honoré Fragonard, Claude Monet, Berthe Morisot, Gustave Moreau, and Auguste Renoir, among others; decorative objects; and family photos and ephemera from their lives across four continents. At the exhibition’s centerpiece are 168 pieces of the extraordinary collection of Japanese netsuke, miniature carved sculptures from the Edo Period (17th-19th centuries), originally collected by Charles Ephrussi in the late 1870s. The netsuke were hidden by a maid from German officials in her mattress during World War II and returned to the family after the war. The collection of netsuke has since been handed down to subsequent generations, serving as a connection between the past and the present. The most recent member of the family to inherit the collection, author and ceramicist Edmund de Waal, drew from them the inspiration for his memoir The Hare with Amber Eyes, continuing the family’s storied legacy of artistic and cultural pursuits. Recent large-scale photographs by Dutch photographer Iwan Baan of the Ephrussi’s grand former residences in Paris and Vienna underscore the passage of time.

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Project information
ClientJewish MuseumLocationThe Jewish Museum, New York, USA
PartnersElizabeth Diller and Ricardo Scofidio
TeamDavid Allin,Alex Knezo,Marcos Garcia Mouronte,Diego Soto Madrinan,and Paola Foster
    Photography by Iwan Baan