A Life's Work Complete: Lesser Ury and Moses

From Our Holdings

For artist Lesser Ury (1861–1931), the painting Moses Looks upon the Promised Land marked the end of a lifelong preoccupation with the figure of Moses. It is one of the monumental biblical paintings he created alongside his much better-known landscapes and street scenes.

Lost Painting

The painting itself has been lost. All that has survived is the pastel drawing presented here. But this work impressively conveys the tragedy of the scene: after Moses leads the people of Israel out of Egypt, God summons him to Mount Nebo. There, God shows him the Promised Land on the plain of Canaan far below, which Moses is destined never to enter. There is a striking contrast between the bright blue land in the distance and Moses, who is shrouded in darkness.

A Dream That Almost Came True

Lesser Ury's dream was to present "large paintings illustrating fundamental social ideas" in a "temple of mankind that transcends all religion, but is full of the deepest religion" – and thus to contribute to "elevating humanity." The painting of Moses is a work for which his dream nearly came true. Ury completed it for the hall of honor in the Jewish pavilion at the 1928 Pressa exhibition in Cologne. The Jewish Community of Berlin later acquired the painting for its art collection and exhibited it in 1933 at the opening of the first Jewish Museum in Berlin. It is not known whether the pastel drawing was done before or after the missing painting.

Title Moses Looks upon the Promised Land
Artist Lesser Ury (1861–1931)
Collection Fine Arts
Year of origin 1928
Medium Pastels on board
Dimensions 50,5 x 35,5 cm
Acquisition Purchased with funds provided by Stiftung DKLB

Lesser Ury, Moses Looks upon the Promised Land; Jewish Museum Berlin, Purchased with funds provided by Stiftung DKLB, photo: Jens Ziehe

Selected Objects (12) Fine Arts Collection Show all

Fine Arts Collection

Glance through our art holdings featuring modernist works by Max Liebermann and Lovis Corinth, and commercial graphic art by Louis Oppenheim. The motifs span from biblical and Jewish themes to intimate portraits and Felix Nussbaum’s haunting response to his experience of persecution.

Albertine Mendelssohn-Bartholdy as a Bride by August Theodor Kaselowsky

In this painting, Albertine Heine appears to be a Christian Madonna. She holds the ring near her heart, wearing a white dress with her gaze modestly lowered.

Biblical map of the Holy Land

This "New and Original Biblical Map of the Holy Land" from 1893 was probably never intended to be used by pilgrims or travelers on the ground.

Loneliness by Felix Nussbaum

Nussbaum is nearly unique among artists for his striking examination of his plight as one of the persecuted. He painted it in Brussels, where he was in hiding, in 1942.

The Plesch Family Portrait by Max Slevogt

Max Slevogt created this painting of his friend's family in 1928. It captures the intimacy of family life while fulfilling a group portrait's representative function.

Composition by Otto Freundlich

Otto Freundlich painted this abstract composition in 1938 – one year after another artwork of his had been branded "degenerate art" in Nazi Germany.

Moses Looks upon the Promised Land by Lesser Ury

For artist Lesser Ury, the painting marked the end of a lifelong preoccupation with the figure of Moses. Unfortunately, only a pastel sketch for the painting survives.

Petermannchen by Lovis Corinth

Lovis Corinth painted this portrait of his student and wife-to-be during a beach vacation on the Baltic coast. It contains a secret romantic message.

Sabbath by Jankel Adler

Jankel Adler's painting Sabbath shows a parlor scene on the weekly day of rest. But the artist has not depicted the festive, pleasurable moment of welcoming the Shabbat.

Girl Walking by Elisabeth Wolff

The sculpture by Elisabeth Wolff was a trophy at the first sporting festival held by the Reich Committee for Jewish Youth Associations, in 1934. The artwork has only been entrusted to our collection for safekeeping.

Self-Portrait with Straw Hat by Max Liebermann

In this late self-portrait, the artist presents himself as bourgeois in a dark suit and a Panama hat. Two years after his eightieth birthday, he painted himself here with a touch of resignation and melancholy.

S. Adam Advertising Poster by Louis Oppenheim

With this poster by the well-known graphic artist Louis Oppenheim, the S. Adam clothing store advertised its products to male and female sports enthusiasts in 1908.

Passage through the Red Sea by Jakob Steinhardt

This woodcut by Jakob Steinhardt illustrates a 1920s Haggadah. The people barely escaped with their lives—as is revealed in the expression on Moses’ face.

Lesser Ury (Painter)

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Moses

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