From Mendelssohn To Mendelssohn (2016) | Exhibition Texts

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    This much-celebrated (and often reproduced) painting by Moritz Daniel

    Oppenheim (1800–1882) portrays an imagined meeting between scholars and

    intellectual associates, Moses Mendelssohn (1729–1786) and Gotthold Ephraim

    Lessing (1729–1781), and the Swiss theologian Johann Kaspar Lavater (1741–1801),

    at the Berlin residence of Moses Mendelssohn, located at Spandauerstraße 68.

    Mendelssohn is depicted on the left, wearing a red coat, and seated at a chess

    table in his library with Lavater. Lessing stands at the center behind the two.

    The scene refers to two foundational moments in the history of German-Jewish

    cultural interaction—the encounters between Mendelssohn and Lavater on one

    hand, and Mendelssohn’s friendship with Lessing on the other—which Oppenheim

    “merged” into his canvas. The actual meetings between Mendelssohn and Lavater,

    which took place in 1763–64, were followed by the failed attempt on the part

    of the theologian to convince Mendelssohn to embrace Christianity. The well-

    known friendship between Mendelssohn and Lessing, one of the high points of

    the haskalah, or “Jewish Enlightenment,” came to be considered a paradigm of

    the possibility of a harmonious cohabitation between Germans and Jews.

    The very notion of combining different historical moments on canvas was

    directly inspired by Lessing’s writings. In his famous essay,Laocoon: An Essay on

    the Limits of Painting and Poetry(1766), the author argued for the independence

    of painting from poetry in extending narrative processes through space—an idea

    embodied in Oppenheim’s work. Each aspect of Oppenheim’s painting thus

    represents a visual cue pointing at history and its interpretations.

    In Moses Mendelssohn’s Study 

    Moritz Oppenheim’s signature and date appear prominently 

    at the bottom right of the painting.

    Theshapeof Mendelssohn’s profile  mayhavebeenbased

    uponthesilhouetteincludedin Lavater’sPhysiognomische

    Fragmente (PhysiognomicFragmentsforthePromotionofthe

    KnowledgeandLoveofMankind,1775–1778).Thisrepresents

    quiteanironicturnon Oppenheim’spart.Inhiswork,Lavater

    describedMendelssohnas“acompanionable,brilliantsoul,

    withpiercingeyes,thebodyof anAesop—amanofkeen

    insight,exquisitetasteandwideerudition[. ..]frank andopen-

    hearted,”endingthepraisewiththe wishthatMendelssohn

    couldacknowledge,“togetherwithPlatoand Moses[.. .]the

    crucifiedgloryofChrist”.

    Thechess board  positionedatthe centeramongthethree

    charactersisevocativeofLessing’sdrama,Nathan der 

    Weise (NathantheWise,1779).Setin Jerusalemduringthe

    ThirdCrusade,thedramaexaltedthevirtues ofintellectual

    exchangeandreligioustoleranceexpressedbythe meeting

    betweenaJewishmerchant,Nathan,andthe enlightened

    sultan,Saladin,overagame ofchess.ThecharacterofNathan

    wasmodeledafterMosesMendelssohn.In thepainting,

    thechessboardalsorepresentsa visualpun:Red hasbeen

    putincheckmatebyWhite,in alikelyreferencetothe

    intellectualsuperiorityattributedtotheassociationbetween

    MendelssohnandLessingoverLavater’sstance.

    Lavaterhashishand onan open book,onthepageof

    whichOppenheimpaintedthename,“Bonnet.”Thebook

    isinfact Lavater’sGermantranslation,titledPhilosophische

    Palingenesie(PhilosophicalPalingenesis,Zurich,1769–1770),

    ofaworkby CharlesBonnet(1720–1793),La palingénésie

    philosophique  (1769).Thepublicationofthisvolume

    wasleveragedbythetheologianin hisattempttocoerce

    Mendelssohnintoofferingapublicreplyconcerningthe

    “essenceofChristianity.”

    Abovethethreemenhangsa brass lamp,whichcombinesa

    chandelier(onthetopsection)withan oillamp(atbottom),

    usedrespectivelyforillumination,andforritualpurposeson

    theSabbathand otherJewishholidays.

    Ontheright,a female figure isenteringtheroomholding

    atraywith three coffee cups.MoritzOppenheim’sstudy

    forthisfemalefigureis alsopartof TheMagnesCollection,

    andthefigurehas beenidentifiedbysomescholarsas

    Mendelssohn’swife,FrometGuggenheim(1737–1912).Above

    her, the door frame is inscribed with a blessing from the

    Hebrew Bible: (barukh atah be-

    voekha u-varukh atah be-tzetekha:“Blessedshaltthou be

    whenthoucomestin,and blessedshaltthoube whenthou

    goestout,”Deuteronomy28:6).Thisbiblical quotationmayin

    turnbeconstruedasa referencetothefriendshipbetween

    MendelssohnandLessing,aswell as(inyet anotherironic

    turn)tothetransienceofthe conflictedrelationshipbetween

    MendelssohnandLavater(whosehatand walkingstickappear

    onthelowerrightof thepainting).

    Behindthethreemen,on thebackwall,stands a bookshelf,

    inwhichbooksof differentsizesaredisplayed.Thesizesof

    thebooksmaybe areferencetothecompositestructure

    ofMendelssohn’sintellectualworld,inwhichtallJewish

    religioustexts(especiallytheTalmud)andregularsizesecular

    (andphilosophical)volumesseamlesslycoexist.Nextto the

    bookshelf,attheleft ofthewall, hangsaframed mizrach  רח) ,

    theHebrewwordfor“East”is faintlylegible),awall-hanging

    indicatingthedirectionbeingfacedduringprayeraccording

    totheJewishritual.This, alongwiththeSabbath lamphanging

    fromtheceiling,a basin onwall(tobe usedforritualhand

    washing),thehead covering anachronisticallyplacedover

    Mendelssohn’shead(nocontemporaryiconographicsource

    depictsMendelssohnwearinganyformofhead covering),the  

    ritual fringes of a tallit qatan  visibleunder Mendelssohn’s

    redovercoat,andtheHebrewinscriptiononthedoorframe,

    canbeseenas attemptsonthepart ofthepainterto interpret

    Mendelssohn’sattachmenttoJudaismthroughthe lenses

    ofthecanonsof Jewishobservancethatdominatedthe

    mid-19thcentury,whenthepaintingwasmade.

    A tall volume,titled Strazze 1770  (Notebook1770),featured

    noticeablyonthelowerleftof thescene,setsthe scene

    chronologicallyin1770,the yearinwhichLavater’stranslation

    ofBonnet’sPhilosophical palingenesis  waspublished.

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    Moritz D. Oppenheim (1800–1882), often celebrated as the first modern Jewish

    painter, created Lavater and Lessing Visit Moses Mendelssohn in 1856. The

    painting portrays an imagined mid-18th century meeting between scholars and

    intellectual associates, Moses Mendelssohn (1729–1786) and Gotthold Ephraim

    Lessing (1729–1781), and the Swiss theologian, Johann Kaspar Lavater (1741–1801),

    taking place at the Mendelssohn residence in Berlin. The intellectual friendship

    between Lessing and Mendelssohn, as well as the public dispute between

    Mendelssohn and Lavater, are evoked in this work through a host of visual

    connections to history, literature, and Jewish culture.

    From Mendelssohn To Mendelssohn draws upon the Magnes’ extensive holdings

    of German-Jewish ritual art, prints, rare volumes, manuscripts, and material cultureto revisit the original setting of the painting. At the center of the exhibition

    are the social networks of the German Enlightenment, and the history of the

    Mendelssohn family, including the lives and works of Moses Mendelssohn’s

    grandchildren, composers Fanny (1805–1847) and Felix (1809–1847).

    The installation, aimed at creating a renewed imagined space of intercultural dialog

    animated by a historic piano from UC Berkeley’s musical instrument collection,is the new setting of a salon-like space of intellectual and artistic gathering.

    FRANCESCO SPAGNOLO, CURATOR

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    Washbasin

    Ritual hand washing station with lavabo, lid, basin, andbowl

    Germany, ca. 18th century

    Pewter with brass spigotGift of the Estate of Charlotte Stein Pick, 91.12.1.1–3

    At the Heart of a Controversy:

    Lavater’s BookLavater’s translation of the Swiss naturalist and philosopherC. Bonnet’s essay, La palingénésie philosophique (1769),prompted him to approach Mendelssohn in order to engage

    him in a public debate on “the essence of Christianity.” InOppenheim’s painting, the book is depicted open to its titlepage on the table in Mendelssohn’s living room. On one of thetwo visible open pages the word “Bonnet” is faintly legible. Charles Bonnet (1720–1793)

    Herrn C. Bonnets [. . .] Philosophische Palingenesie[. . .] und welcher insonderheit das Wesentliche seinerUntersuchungen über das Christenthum enthält, ausdem Französischen übersetzt, und mit Anmerkungenherausgegeben von Johann Caspar Lavater (Philosophicalpalingenesis [. . .] by Mr. C. Bonnet [. . .] containing as a specialfeature his research on the essence of Christianity, translatedfrom French, edited and annotated by Johann Caspar Lavater) 

    GermanZurich Bey Orell Gessner Füssli und Compagnie 1769 1770 vol 1

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    A Game of Chess

    After a painting by Jehudo Epstein (1870–1945)

    In drei Bügen Matt! (Checkmate in three moves!)Germany, ca. 1900Lithographic reproduction of engravingGift of the Harry B. and Branka J. Sondheim Judaica Collection, 2000.19.4

    Henry Landa (b. Kiev, Ukraine, 1931)Chess set 

    Kazakhstan, 1942Scrapwood, oven paintGift of Anna and Henry Landa, 2015.13

    Henry Landa carved and painted a chess set at age eleven,when he and his family fled Nazi-occupied Ukraine, andspent the last years of the Second World War as refugees inKazakhstan. Mr. Landa donated the set to The Magnes in 2015.

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    Serving Coffee

    Moritz Daniel Oppenheim (1800–1882)

    Servant with Tray (Study for oil painting) Germany, ca. 1850Graphite on paperGift of the Magnes Museum Women’s Guild, 75.156

    Demitasse set with base coffee cups, inscribed with NC

    [Nissim de Camondo] monogramParis, France, Jullien Fils Ainé, 1855Porcelain ChinaGift of James Katz, 99.1.3.1, 99.1.3.2.1–6a-b

    Banker Nissim de Camondo (Constantinople 1830–Paris 1889)

    married Elise Fernandez in 1855. He and his brother, AbrahamBehor (1829–1889), received a nobility title from VictorEmmanuel II for their financial support of Italy’s unificationin 1867, and moved to Paris with their families in 1869. Theirhome in rue de Monceau houses the Nissim de Camondo

    Museum.

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    Moritz Daniel Oppenheim (1800–1882)

    Man in Tri-Cornered Hat (Study for oil painting) 

    Germany, n.d.Graphite on paper

    Gift of the Magnes Museum Women’s Guild, 75.157

    Jewish men’s ritual head covering 

    Germany, n.d. (ca. 1925)SilkGift of Mrs. Ellen Block in memory of Paul M. Block, 79.67.2

    Jewish men’s ritual head covering 

    Germany n.d. (ca. 1910)CottonGift of Werner J. Heumann, 89.38.3

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    Mendelssohn Family Life

    Jakob Gottlieb Thelott (1708–1760), after a painting by

    Lucas Conrad Pfandzelt (1716–1786)Wahre Abbildung, Der andem Iuden Ioseph SüßOppenheimers [. . .] Execution (A true depiction of theExecution of the Jew Ioseph Süß Oppenheimer [Joseph benIssachar Suesskind, 1698 or 1699–1738)

    Augsburg, Germany, 1738Engraving on handmade rag paperGift of Dr. Elliot Zaleznik, 76.305

    Anonymous

    Herz Homberg, n.d.Engraving on paperJudah L. Magnes Museum purchase, Siegfried S. Strauss Collection,

    67.1.10.30

    Portrait of Naphtali Herz Homberg (1749–1841), who studied

    under Moses Mendelssohn and tutored his eldest son,Joseph Mendelssohn, in the 1780s.

    Attributed to Wilhelm Hensel (1794–1861)

    Fanny Hensel, geb. Mendelssohn Bartholdy  (Fanny Hensel,née Mendelssohn Bartholdy)

    Germany, 1847EngravingGift of Helene Eutzmann Hayne 76 43

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    August Weger (1823–1892), after a bust by Hermann Knaur(1811–1872)

    Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy 

    Leipzig, Germany, Verlag v. Baumgärtner’s Buchhandlung, n.d. (ca. 1850)

    Engraving on paperJudah L. Magnes Museum purchase, Siegfried S. Strauss Collection,67.1.10.10

    August Weger (1823–1892) and Johann-Paul Singer (1823–?)

    Wilhelm Hensel und Fanny Hensel geb. Mendelssohn-Bartholdy (Wilhelm Hensel and Fanny Hensel bornMendelssohn-Bartholdy)

    Leipzig, Germany, Alexander Alboth, 1846Engraving on Paper

    Judah L. Magnes Museum purchase, Siegfried S. Strauss Collection,67.1.10.31

    G. Müller, after a drawing by Richard Püttner (1842–1913)

    Das Georgenhaus und die Heuwage in Leipzig [View ofLeipzig Jewish quarter]

    Die Gartenlaube  (Leipzig), 32/1871Lithographic reproduction of engravingGift of the Harry B. and Branka J. Sondheim Judaica Collection,2000.19.74

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    Frederick James Smyth

    Funeral of Mendelssohn, at Leipzig 

    The Illustrated London News  (London), November 20, 1847, p. 324Lithographic reproduction of engraving

    Gift of the Harry B. and Branka J. Sondheim Judaica Collection,2000.19.39

    Moses Mendelssohn as Icon

    Anonymous

    Über die Haupgrundsätze der schönen Künste undWissenschaften (On the Main Principles of the Fine Arts andSciences)

    German, Latin, HebrewGermany, n.d. (ca. 1781)Engraving on paperGift of William P. Wreden, 75.2

    Allegorical tribute to Moses Mendelssohn, titled after hisessay On the main principles of fine arts and sciences  (1757).Mendelssohn’s portrait is surrounded by German excerptsfrom his publications, allegorical images of the Arts, imagesof open books that include the Bible printed in both Hebrewand German as well as Mendelssohn’s own Philosophical

    Writings  (1771) and Phädon (1767), and banderoles with Latinquotations from various authors, including Seneca.

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    Anonymous

    Moses Mendelssohn, 1729–1786 n.d.

    Offset lithograph

    Gift of Seymour Fromer, 76.186

    Anonymous

    Moses Mendelssohn

    n.d.Engraving on paperJudah L. Magnes Museum purchase, Siegfried S. Strauss Collection,67.1.10.22

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    Ernst Carl Gottlieb Thelott (1760–1834), after a watercolorattributed to Johannes Pfenninger (1765–1825)

    Portraits of Spinoza, Mendelssohn and Lessing 

    Printed in Friedrich Heinrich Jacobi (1743–1819), Ueber die Lehre des

    Spinoza in Briefen an den Herrn Moses Mendelssohn (Concerning theDoctrine of Spinoza in Letters to Mr. Moses Mendelssohn)Breslau, G. Löwe, 1789

    B3998 J33 1789, Reproduction courtesy of The Bancroft Library

    Friedrich Jacobi’s work, originally published in 1785, attacked

    both Moses Mendelssohn and Gotthold Lessing, accusingthe latter of “Spinozism,” or pantheism and thus, implicitly,of atheism. These accusations were based upon an allegedconversation between Jacobi and Lessing that was not toodissimilar from the one between Mendelssohn and CasparLavater that is the focus of Moritz Oppenheim’s 1856 painting.

    The book gave way to the “Pantheism Dispute.” Its secondedition was introduced by two vignettes. The first portrayedthe philosopher Baruch Spinoza (1632–1677). The secondwas a “double portrait” in which Mendelssohn appears to beominously “shadowing” Lessing.

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    Johann Caspar Lavater (1741–1801)

    Silhouette of Moses Mendelssohn

    Printed in Johann Caspar Lavater, Physiognomische Fragmente(Physiognomic Fragments)

    Winterthur, Heinrich Steiners und Compagnie, 1783–1787, vol. 2: 136BF843 .L274 1783, reproduction courtesy of The Bancroft Library

    Originally published in 1775–1778, Lavater’s studies onphysiognomy included a silhouette of Mendelssohn’sprofile, which may have been the source for his portrait inM. Oppenheim’s 1856 painting. About the silhouette, Lavaterwrote: ‘You probably know this silhouette. It is very dear tome! It speaks volumes! I marvel at its contours! My gaze runsfrom the marvelous arch of the forehead to the sharp bonesof the eye. In these depths resides a Socratic soul. Markthe wonderful transition from nose to upper lip [. . .] how

    all this combines to make the divine truth of physiognomypalpable and visible.’ Lavater described Mendelssohn as ‘acompanionable, brilliant soul, with piercing eyes, the bodyof an Aesop—a man of keen insight, exquisite taste and wideerudition [. . .] frank and open-hearted. [. . .] Yes, I see him,Abraham’s son, who—together with Plato and Moses—will

    surely recognize and worship the crucified Lord of Splendor!’

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    Entering the Scholar’s Study

    Synagogue window (door pediment) 

    San Francisco, Calif., United States, 19th C.Glass, wood, leadGift of Seymour Fromer, 91.39

    Nissim bar Sheshet

    Synagogue plaque inscribed with shiviti text and biblical

    quotations HebrewMarrakech, Morocco, 1957Graphite and colored pencil on paper76.55

    Sukkah decorationJerusalem, Palestine, Zukerman Press, n.d (late 19th C.)Offset Lithograph2007.0.40

    Ritual Jewish images inscribed in Hebrew with the biblical

    verse, “Blessed shalt thou be when thou comest in, andblessed shalt thou be when thou goest out” (Deuteronomy28:6), which is engraved on the door frame of MosesMendelssohn’s study in Oppenheim’s painting.

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    Lamps for Everyday Use &Jewish Festivals

    FROM LEFT TO RIGHT:

    Hanging lamp and chandelier for Sabbath and Festivalsand for everyday use with eight oil wells, eight branches,and drip pan

    Germany, 18th centuryBrassThe Peachy and Mark Levy Family Judaica Collection, 2015.6.93

    Hanging lamp and chandelier for Sabbath and Festivalswith eight oil wells, seven branches, drip pan and crown-shaped top 

    Eastern Europe, 18th centuryBrassJudah L. Magnes Museum purchase with funds provided byElie J. Tennenbaum, 76.118

    Hanging lamp and chandelier for Sabbath and Festivalsand for everyday use with eight oil wells, four branches,and drip pan

    Germany, 19th centuryBrassThe Peachy and Mark Levy Family Judaica Collection, 2015.6.124

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    Facing East

    Mizrach with shiviti text and quotations from the Psalms(fragment) 

    North Africa, ca. 1900Gift of Geraldine and Robert Misrach, 88.50.2

    A mizrach, named after the Hebrew word for “east,” is adevotional plaque that designates the direction to be facedduring prayer. The Hebrew word also contains the acronym

    mi-tzad zeh ruach chayim (“from this side [comes] the spiritof life”). Placed on the walls of homes and synagogues,the plaques are often inscribed with scriptural passages,amuletic and kabbalistic texts, or depictions of holy places.This fragment is inscribed with quotations from the Bookof Psalms (16:8; 19:8; 19:9; and 101:10). A mizrach appears onthe left of the back wall of Moses Mendelssohn’s study inOppenheim’s painting.

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    Tallit katanUndergarment supporting ritual fringes

    Germany, 19th century (ca. 1880)Wool and cotton fringe

    Gift of Mrs. Irving Klein, 77.268

    Three Characters

    G. Heuer & Kirmse, after a painting by Karl Zewy (1855–1929)Der Zweifler (The Doubter)

    Berlin, Germany, n.d. (ca. 1890)Lithographic reproduction of engravingGift of the Harry B. and Branka J. Sondheim Judaica Collection, 2000.19.10

    Carved wooden cane inscribed in Arabic script 

    Iran via Palestine, 19th centuryCarved wood with black pigmentGift of Helen Young Crawford, 68.5

    Cane brought from Jerusalem by Professor Charles Young,Professor of Hebrew, University of Chicago, 1900. Given tothe Magnes Memorial Museum by his daughter, Helen YoungCrawford.

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    The Mendelssohn Family 

    Inthe 18thcenturyabout 3,500Jews livedin Berlin.Theywerenot yetemancipated,

    meaningthat theydid notenjoy civil rights.Rather,they were “tolerated,” an official

    legal categorythat meanttheir residencyandoccupation rightswere guaranteed

    with lettersofprotection. Thisarrangementalso meantthat such rightscouldbe

    arbitrarilyrescinded.

    The leadingfigure ofthe small Berlin Jewish communitywas MosesMendelssohn

    (1729–1786).Born in the cityof Dessau,he wasthe son ofa poorTorah scribe.

    When histutorand intellectual mentor,RabbiDavid Hirshl Fränkel movedto

    Berlin to take upthe postof chiefrabbi in thatcity,Mendelssohn,aged fourteen,

    followedhimthere. Workingasa bookkeeperin aJewish silkfactory byday,

    Mendelssohn,who hadarrivedinthe capital speakingonlyYiddish andknowing

    onlyJewish texts,soon learnedLatin,Greek, German,French,and English.He

    also studiedvariousbranchesof contemporaryandancient philosophy,aesthetics,

    language,music composition,andplayedpiano aswell as wrote music criticism.All

    the while he remainedadeeply piousJew,steeped in the worldof Jewish texts.

    Mendelssohn’sreputation wassuch that he earnedthe title of the “Jewish Socrates.”

    In 1763,the Berlin Jewish communityhonoredhim byabsolvinghim ofpayment of

    Jewish communal taxes.

    MosesMendelssohn wasagenuine celebrityand wasthe mostvisible symbol of

    the possibilityofa Jewliving in two worlds—the traditional Jewish andthe modern

    secular.Assuch he wasbefriendedbyboth Jewsand non-Jews.Writing to the

    non-Jewish philosopherandplaywrightGotthold EphraimLessing,the publisher

    andpoet Friedrich Nicolairemarked,“I amindebtedto [Mendelssohn] forthe most

    cheerful hoursof the pastwinterand summer.I neverleft him,regardlessof how

    longwe were together,withoutbecoming eitherbetteror more learned.” Thiswas

    atruly revolutionarysentiment,for rarelyhada non-Jewspoken so warmlyof a

    Jew.It was,for mostnon-Jews,inconceivable thatone’swisdom ormoral character

    couldbe improvedbyfriendshipwith aJew.Many othernon-Jewswho made

    Mendelssohn’sacquaintance feltsimilarly.

    In 1762 Mendelssohn married Fromet Guggenheim,who stemmedfroma prominent

    HamburgJewish family.Togethertheybuilt ahome thatwasa hubof social and

    cultural activity,visited byJews andnon-Jewsalike.Their situation soon propelled

    theminto Jewish high society.

    The Mendelssohn’smarriage wasa lovingand happyone andtogethertheyhad

    ten children,sixof whomsurvivedinto adulthood.Joseph, Abraham,Nathan,

    Dorothea,Recha,and Henriettaall marriedinto the wealthyJewish elite,but the

    temptationsofnon-Jewish culture andsociety,somethingthat Mendelssohn himself

    wasable to control,proveda more difficultundertakingfor hischildren.With

    the exception ofJoseph andRecha,all of the siblingsconvertedto Christianity.

    Dorothea,an authorandtranslator,marriedthe poetandcritic, Karl Wilhelm

    FriedrichSchlegel(afterdivorcing herfirst husband,bankerSimon Veit).Abraham

    Mendelssohn,who marriedLea Solomon,wasthe fatherof Felix and Fanny

    Mendelssohn-Bartholdy.Abraham hadencouragedFelix to adoptthe surname

    Bartholdyin place ofMendelssohn in orderto signifya final breakwith Judaism,

    tellinghisson, “There can no more be aChristian Mendelssohn than there can

    be aJewish Confucius.” In defiance ofhisfather, Felixnever droppedthe name

    Mendelssohn.In 1822,Abrahamand Lea,who hadalreadyhad theirchildren

    baptized,convertedto Christianity“because,” wrote Abrahamto Fanny,“itis the

    religiousformacceptable to the majorityof civilizedhuman beings.” The abilityto

    be both fullyJewish andfullyGerman,which was so natural to Mosesand Fromet,

    provedto be an accommodation thatwastoo difficultto bear forthe majority

    oftheir own children,butnot onlythem. In Berlin,between 1770and 1830,

    nearly1,600 Jewswere baptized,more than 1,200ofthem in the firstthree

    decadesofthe 19th century.It wasreferredto in German asthe Taufepidemie ,

    the “epidemic of baptisms.”

    JOHN M. EFRON

    KoretProfessorofJewish History,Universityof California,Berkeley

    Moses Mendelssohn (1729–1786)

    The son ofaTorah scribe,Mendelssohn receivedatraditional

    Jewish education in hisnative Dessau.He moved to Berlin in

    1743,where he pursuedJewish andsecularstudies. In addition

    to German andHebrew,he acquiredknowledge ofLatin,Greek,

    English,French,and Italian.Supportinghimselfas amerchant

    anda partnerin asilk factory,he engagedin an intense and

    public literaryandintellectual life.In 1762,he marriedFromet

    GuggenheimofHamburg, andin 1763 he washe grantedthe

    “rightofresidence” in Berlin bythe king.Mendelssohn began to

    publish hisphilosophical writingsin 1754,initially underguidance

    ofGottholdEphraim Lessing(1729–1781),whomhe hadmet in

    the same year.In 1763, he wasawardedthe firstprize ofthe

    Prussian Royal Academyof Sciencesfor his Treatise on Evidence

    in Metaphysical Knowledge ,but once the academyelected

    himas amember in 1771,KingFrederick IIrefused to ratifyits

    decision.He publisheda German translation andcommentary

    ofthe Pentateuch, Sefer Netivot ha-Shalom (1780–83),printed

    in Hebrewscript.In 1769,he became embroiledin a dispute on

    the Jewish religion fomentedbythe Swisstheologian Johann

    KasparLavater(1741–1801),andfrom then on,he confinedmost

    ofhis literaryactivity to the sphere ofJudaism.

    AbrahamMendelssohn (laterAbrahamErnestMendelssohn-

    Bartholdy),the fifth childofFrometand MosesMendelssohn,

    wasa bankerand philanthropist,andthe fatherofFanny and

    FelixMendelssohn.Togetherwith hisolderbrother,Joseph,

    he wasafounder ofthe enlightenedcircle ofJewish notables,

    the Jewish liberal society Gesellschaft der Freunde  (1792).

    He wasalso amemberofthe Berlin Sing-Akademie ,a musical

    societylater joinedbyhis future wife,Lea Salomon.He moved

    to Parisin 1797 to study,and in 1804marriedLea Salomon in

    Hamburg,where theyresideduntil movingto Berlin in 1811,and

    where three oftheirfourchildren were born (Fannyin 1805,

    Felixin 1809 andRebeckain 1811;the fourth,Paul, wasborn

    in Berlin in 1812).Leawas the granddaughterof Daniel Itzig,a

    CourtJew andcommunityleader in Berlin,and the niece of

    Sarah Levy(1761–1854),apupil ofWilhelm Friedemann Bach

    (Johann Sebastian Bach’seldestson), akeyboardperformerand

    acollector ofmusic manuscriptsofthe Bach family.Abraham

    acquiredadditional manuscriptsfrom the widowofCarl Philipp

    Emanuel Bach,eventuallyentrustingthe music collection to

    the Akademie .He andhis wife decidedto nothave theirsons

    rituallycircumcisedaccordingto Jewish tradition,andinitially

    raisedtheirchildren withoutany religiouseducation.The

    Mendelssohn children were privatelybaptizedin the Protestant

    faith in 1816,and AbrahamandLea in 1822,in the French

    CalvinistChurch ofFrankfurt. Theytook the surname Bartholdy

    (Abrahameventuallyurged hisson, Felix,to onlyuse that,“asa

    distinction fromthe otherMendelssohns”)followingthe example

    ofLea’sbrother,who hadalready convertedto Christianity

    several yearsbefore andadoptedthe name Bartholdy,after

    afamily dairyfarm. The bankingpartnershipwith hisbrother

    Joseph,Mendelssohn & Co.,operatedin Berlin until the endof

    1938,when itwasliquidatedby the Naziregime.

    Abraham Ernest Mendelssohn-Bartholdy (1776–1835)

    Fanny (Cäcilie) Mendelssohn (-Bartholdy) Hensel(1805–1847)

    FelixMendelssohn,a conductor,pianist,organist,and composer,

    wasa central figure ofGerman music duringthe 1830sand’40s.

    Mendelssohn wasborn in Hamburg,waseducatedin Berlin

    andParis,travelled extensivelyin France,England,and Italy.He

    livedand workedin Berlin,London,Düsseldorf, andLeipzig.The

    catalogue ofhis compositionscomprisesoverone hundredand

    fiftyworks,including 121 with opusnumbers.His earlymusical

    education wasoverseen byhis mother,Lea.Along with his

    sister,Fanny,he studiedmusic theory,harmony,counterpoint

    andcomposition with the Akademie ’sdirector,Carl Friedrich

    Zelter(Goethe’smusical confidant).Hisearliestcomposition

    isfrom1819. Hisgeneral education advancedequallyrapidly,

    andhe became an avidclassicist,studying andtranslatingLatin

    andGreek literature.Encouragedbyhis father,Felixbegan to

    take on progressivelymore ambitiousmusical projects:on his

    twelfth birthday,a Singspiel  he composedwasperformedin a

    fullystagedversion, with an orchestrarecruitedfromthe royal

    Kappelle,in atheaterthathad been speciallybuilt in ahall of

    the Mendelssohn’shome in Berlin.In 1821,Zelter arrangeda

    two-weekvisitwith Goethe in Weimar.In 1823,Mendelssohn

    receivedfromhis maternal grandmother,BellaSalomon,a

    manuscriptcopyof Bach’s St. Matthew Passion.The following

    year,he endedhis apprenticeshipunderZelter,and hismother

    hiredpiano virtuoso IgnazMoscheles to give Felixand Fanny

    finishingpiano lessons.In 1825,the familymoved fromthe

    home ofBellaSalomon to anew residence at3 Leipzigerstrasse,

    which became an importantmusical andcultural center, visited

    byHeine, Hegel,Alexandervon Humboldt,andmany others.

    Ashis workscontinuedto be performedacrossGermany,in

    1827,Felix,on hismother’srecommendation,enrolledin the

    UniversityofBerlin, where he attendedHegel’slectures on

    aesthetics.With the revival ofBach’s St. Matthew Passion 

    atthe Berlin Sing-Akademie  in 1829,Mendelssohn’scareer

    waspropellednationally andinternationally.He travelledand

    performedextensivelyin Germany,England,Austria,Italy,

    andFrance, meetingwith manygreatcomposers,performers,

    critics,andpoets. while atthe same time remainingin constant

    epistolarycontactwith hisfamilyin Berlin,andattending

    familyeventsthere, forwhich he continuedto write specially

    composedworks.In 1833 he wasoffereda three-yearposition

    in Düsseldorf,conductingthe choral andorchestralsocieties

    andmusic forCatholic services.In 1835 he became the director

    ofthe Gewandhausand Thomasschule in Leipzig,where he

    workedfortwelve years,directinga yearlysubscription series

    oftwenty concerts,in which he participatedasconductor and

    pianist,performingmanyof hisown worksand those ofhis

    contemporaries,along with the German Classical repertoire.His

    fatherdiedthat same year,andhe became close with hisaunt,

    Dorotheavon Schlegel.In 1837 he marriedCécile Jeanrenaud,

    the daughterof aHuguenot minister.In 1841,Mendelssohn was

    appointedKapellmeisteratthe Berlin court,andthe following

    year(athis mother’sbehest)he acceptedthe position of

    Generalmusikdirector ,charged with overseeingsacredmusic

    in the capital.His motherpassedaway thatsame year,and he

    continuedto also workin Leipzig,where in 1843 he began

    teachingatthe newmusic Conservatory,and receivedhonorary

    citizenship.In Berlin,he prepareda newsettingof the Te Deum,

    performedatthe Berlin Cathedral markingthe millenniumof

    the foundingofthe German Reich.Mendelssohn relocated

    there atthe endofthe year,servingas the royal composerof

    church music.He continuedto workbetween Berlin,London,

    Frankfurt,andLeipzig. HissisterFanny diedin Mayof 1847,and

    he diedin Leipzigin November.A funeral service washeldat

    the Paulinerkirche in Leipzigon November7,and he wasburied

    in Berlin nextto hissister’sgrave.

    Composer,pianistandconductorFanny Mendelssohn wasthe

    sisterofcomposerFelix Mendelssohn,the daughterofbanker

    andmusic collectorAbrahamMendelssohn-Bartholdy,the

    granddaughterof philosopherMosesMendelssohn,and the

    grandniece ofperformerandmusic collector,Sarah Levy,andof

    the patronessofmusic,arts andliterature,and Viennasalonnière ,

    Fannyvon Arnstein (1758–1818).She wasinitiallytaughtpiano by

    hermother,Lea Salomon,andlater on byLudwigBerger,and in

    1816 byMarie Bigotin Paris.At age thirteen,Fanny performedin

    public,frommemory,all preludesfromBach’s Well-Tempered 

    Clavier .She studiedtheory andcomposition with C.F.Zelter,

    andin 1820she enrolled in the BerlinSing-Akademie .Herfirst

    composition datesfromDecember1819, alied in honorof her

    father’sbirthday;she subsequentlymostlywrote liederand

    piano pieces,amountingto circa 500compositions.Herfather,

    however,discouragedherto pursue music asa profession.In

    1829,Fannymarriedthe Prussian courtpainterWilhelmHensel

    (1894–1861),with whomshe hada child,Sebastian (laterafamily

    biographer).In the following year,she began animatingasalon,

    forwhich she wrote andperformedmostof hercompositions,

    includingac antataandan oratorio on biblical themes,and

    chamberworks.Fanny livedin closedcontact with heryounger

    brother,Felix,until hismarriage in 1837.She began publishingher

    compositionswithoutFelix’s involvementin 1846.Very fewof

    hercompositionswere published,includingeleven numbered

    works,andsixteen single pieceswithoutopusnumber.

    Felix (Jakob Ludwig) Mendelssohn (-Bartholdy) (1809–1847)

    Fromet Guggenheim (1737–1812)

    A great-granddaughterofthe Viennese Court Jew,Samuel

    Oppenheimer(1630–1703),FrometmarriedMosesMendelssohn

    in 1762.Theyhad sixchildren.Among herancestorswas Joseph

    Ben IssacharSuesskindOppenheimer(1698 or1699–1738),also

    known as“JudSuess,” CourtJewand confidential financial

    adviserto the duke ofWuerttemberg,wronglychargedof

    embezzlementandpubliclyhanged in 1738.

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    Bookends 

    Anonymous

    Bookends depicting a man wearing a headcovering and a prayer shawl, reading froma book

    Cast bronze alloyLIB 67.212 and LIB 67.213

    1.

    David ben Shlomoh Gans (1541–1613)

    tzemach david (The offspring of David)

    HebrewFrankfurt am Main, [5]452-1692Jewish community of Kochi (Kerala, India), RB 62

    2.

    Johann Christoph Georg Bodenschatz (1717–1797)

    Kirchliche Verfassung der heutigen Juden,sonderlich derer in Deutschland (The religiouscondition of contemporary Jews, especially thosein Germany)

    GermanFrankfurt und Leipzig, Auf Kosten des Auctoris, 1748–1749Gift of Temple Sinai (Oakland, Calif.), RB 93

    3.

    Isaiah Horowitz (c. 1565–1630)

    sefer shene luchot ha-berit (The two tablets ofthe Law”), Vol. 2

    HebrewAmsterdam, Imanuel Benvenisti, [5]409 [1648–1649]Jewish community of Kochi (Kerala, India), RB OS72

    4.

    seder ha-machzor cheleq rishon be-minhagpolin . . . (Prayer book for the High Holy Days,Part One, according to the Polish ritual)

    Hebrew

    Sulzbach, Aharon ben Zalman, [5]542 [1781–1782]RB OS62

    The Scholar’s Bookshelf

    5.

    Petrus Cunaeus (1586–1638)

    De Republyk Der Hebreen, of GemeenebestDer Joden, in Drie Boeken (The republic of theHebrews, or the Commonwealth of the Jews,in three parts)

    DutchAmsterdam, Daniel van den Dalen, 1700

    RB 16

    6.

    Claude Fleury (1640–1723) and Daniel Ghys

    De Zeeden Der Israeliten . . . (The customs ofthe Israelites) 

    DutchAmsterdam, Robbert Blokland, 1702RB 46

    7.

    Yitzchaq ben Yehudah Abravanel (1437–1508)perush ha-torah (Commentary on thePentateuch)

    HebrewVenice, [Bragadin], 5339 [1578–1579]Jewish community of Kochi (Kerala, India), RB 1/6

    8.

    Yitzchaq ben Yehudah Abravanel (1437–1508)

    perush ha-torah (Commentary on the

    Pentateuch)HebrewHannover, Heinrich Jacob van Bashyusen, 1721Jewish community of Kochi (Kerala, India), RB 1/4

    TOP SHELF

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    Bookends 

    Louis Vincent Aronson (1869–1940)

    Bookends depicting the Tablets of theLaw with the Decalogue listed in Hebrewaccording to Roman numerals, surmounted bya six-pointed star and surrounded by rays oflight and rocks

    New York, United States, 1922Silver plate over cast Bronze alloyPeachy and Mark Levy Family Judaica Collection,2015.6.96 a–b

    9.

    Avraham Zacuto (1452–1515)

    sefer ha-yuchasin (Book of lineage)

    HebrewAmsterdam, Proops, 1717Jewish community of Kochi (Kerala, India), RB 519

    10.

    seder ha-tiqun le-leyl hosha’na raba (Prayersfor the night vigil of Hosha’na raba)

    HebrewAmsterdam, Proops, [5]527 [1766–1767]Gift of Seymour Fromer, RB 40

    11.

    Paul Christian Kirchner (17th–18th cent.) andSebastian Jugendres (1685–1765)

    Iüdisches Ceremoniel . . . (Jewish CeremonialRites . . .)

    GermanNuremberg, Peter Conrad Monath, 1724

    Gift of Rabbi Irving Frederick Reichert, RB 21

    12.

    Yoseph ben Ephraim Caro (1488–1575)

    shulchan ‘arukh . . . orach chayyim (The settable . . . Manner of life)

    HebrewAmsterdam, Kasman ben Yosef Barukh, [5]528 [1767–1768]Jewish community of Kochi (Kerala, India), RB 249

    13.

    Yitzchaq Aboab (end of 14th cent.)

    sefer menor at ha-maor (Book of thecandlestick of light)

    HebrewSulzbach, Zalman ben Aharon, 1755Jewish community of Kochi (Kerala, India), RB 806

    14.

    Yoseph ben Ephraim Caro (1488–1575)

    tur even ha-’ezer (The Stone of Help [shulchan’arukh])

    HebrewBerlin, Zeev Wolf, [5]462 [1702–1703]Jewish community of Kochi (Kerala, India), RB 14/3

    15.

    masekhet zevachim. talmud bavli ‘im perushrash”i ve-tosafot u-fisqe tosafot u-mishnayiot‘im perush ha-rambam (Babylonian Talmud:Tractate Zevachim, with commentaries by Rashiand Maimonides)

    Hebrew and Aramaic

    Frankfurt an der Oder, Michael Gottschalk - JohannChristoph Beckmann, 1697Jewish community of Liptovský Mikuláš (Slovakia),RB 2/4

    16.

    Netanel Weil (1687–1769)

    qorban netanel (Commentary on Talmud,Tractates Mo’ed and Nashim)

    HebrewKarlsruhe, L. J. Held, 1755

    Jewish community of Liptovský Mikuláš (Slovakia),RB OS74

    17.

    masekhet menachot ‘im perush rash”i . . .(Babylonian Talmud: Tractate Menachot, withcommentaries by Rashi and Maimonides)

    Hebrew and AramaicBerlin and Frankfurt an der Oder, Michael Gottschalk,[5]481 [1721]Jewish community of Liptovský Mikuláš (Slovakia),RB OS31

    MIDDLE SHELF

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    Sebastian Hensel (1830–1898)Die Familie Mendelssohn 1729 bis 1847 NachBriefen und Tagebüchern (The Mendelssohnfamily (1729–1847) from letters and journals)

    GermanBerlin, B. Behr, 1898, 2 vols.ML385.H54 v.1–2

    kitve qodesh [. . .] sefer netivot ha-shalom. ve-hu chibur kolel chamishat chumshe torah ‘im

    targum ashkenazi u-biur me-et ha-chachamha-mefursam mohr”r mosheh medesoy (SacredScriptures [. . .] Sefer netivot ha-shalom, acompendium of the five books of the Torah withGerman translation and commentary by the wiseand sage rabbi Moses Mendelssohn)

    Hebrew and German (in Hebrew script)Vienna, Anton Schmid, 1818RB 189

    Abram Samuel Isaacs (1852–1920)Step By Step. The Early Days of MosesMendelssohn

    EnglishPhiladelphia, The Jewish Publication Society of America,191062.836

    Sebastian Hensel (1830–1898)

    Die Familie Mendelssohn 1729 bis 1847 Nach

    Briefen und Tagebüchern (The Mendelssohnfamily (1729–1847) from letters and journals)

    GermanBerlin, G. Reimer, 1911, 2 vols.ML385 H52 v.1–2

    BOTTOM SHE LF

    Moses Mendelssohn and his family in 18th–19th century publications

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