The Return to Jerusalem

Nicola Saig

  9 Feb - 23 Feb 18

Curated by George Al Ama & Aline Khoury

The exhibition returns the works of the pioneering Jerusalemite artist, Nicola Saig (1863 – 1942), to his hometown after over 75 years of being hidden, reasserting his legacy and revealing twelve paintings recently discovered by George Al Ama in Rajai’ Zacharia’s home in Bethlehem.


In the late nineteenth century Saig was known as an iconographer and painter, trained in the Byzantine tradition of icon painting in the Greek Orthodox church and by his predecessors in the Jerusalem-style practice. At the turn of the century, Saig’s style transformed as he explored new materials and techniques, and introduced secular genres.


The twelve paintings present works from Saig’s later years, maturing as an independent painter who developed his own style distinguished amongst his peers. The paintings present diverse themes and genres including portraiture, religious, still-life and mythological paintings.


Many of Saig’s works were left unsigned and never dated. Saig didn’t live to witness the 1948 war, but as a result of the war his family immigrated from Jerusalem leaving mere traces of his legacy behind but maintaining a collection of oral testaments about his life and inspiring others to embark on a quest to find his works.

The exhibition programme includes a talk with George Al Ama and a walking tour around the Christian Quarter and Jaffa Gate tracing the footsteps of artist Nicola Saig and the cultural life of the early 1900's.  



Special Thanks to:

Rajai’ Zacharia and family, Gallery Al-Salam, Nisa Ari, Nada Atrash, Hamish Dewar, Ziad Yousef Hajali, Ivan Halperin, Jack Hawila, Saver Jallal (Muh’taraf Basmeh Center), Alla Lebov, and Amer Shomali.





Ari, Nisa. “Spiritual Capital and the Copy: Painting, Photography, and the Production of the Image in Early Twentieth-Century Palestine.” Arab Studies Journal 25, no. 2 (2017): 60-99.


Boullata, Kamal. Palestinian Art: From 1850 to the Present. London: Saqi, 2009.


Halaby, Samia. “The Pictorial Arts of Jerusalem, 1900 – 1948.” In Jerusalem Interrupted: Modernity and Colonial Transformation 1917-present, edited by Lena Jayyusi. Olive Branch Press/Interlink Publishing, 2014.


Shammout, Ismail. Al-Fan al-Tashkili Fi Filastin [The Visual Arts in Palestine]. Al-Qabas Printing Press, Kuwait, 1989.

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