Portrait of Fanny Mendelssohn at The Jewish Museum

A recent acquisition to The Jewish Museum, Portrait of Fanny Mendelssohn Hensel, 1842, by
19th century German artist Moritz Daniel Oppenheim, has been added to
the “Modernity” section of Culture and Continuity. The subject of this
portrait was the sister of famous composer Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy,
a talented composer and musician in her own right. Fanny Hensel was
the wife of a fellow painter, Wilhelm Hensel, whom Oppenheim met in Rome
with the Nazarenes.

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Oppenheim, widely recognized as a portraitist, is
known as the first Jewish artist to have benefited from the
Emancipation, when new civil rights permitted Jews entry into academies
of art for the first time in Europe. Extensively patronized by the
Frankfurt branch of the Rothschild family, Oppenheim characterized
himself (immodestly) as “a painter to the Rothschilds and the Rothschild
of painters.”

Comprised of close to 800 works, this vibrant, two-floor exhibition examines the
Jewish experience as it has evolved from antiquity to the present over 4,000 years.
Visitors to the 4th floor see the Ancient World galleries, featuring archaeological
objects representing Jewish life in Israel and the Mediterranean region from 1200
BCE to 640 CE, and a dazzling installation of selections from the Museum’s renowned
collection of Hanukkah lamps. On the 3rd floor alone close to 400 works from the
16th century to the present are on view in this dramatic and evocative experience.
Other highlights of Culture and Continuity include: a pair of silver Torah finials
from Breslau, Germany (1792-93) reunited at The Jewish Museum after sixty years of
separation; paintings by such artists as Marc Chagall, Max Weber, Moritz Daniel
Oppenheim, Isidor Kaufmann, Morris Louis, and Ken Aptekar; prints by El Lissitzky;
sculpture by Elie Nadelman, and George Segal’s monumental sculpture, The Holocaust,
1982. A display of 38 Torah ornaments allows the viewer to compare artistic styles
from different parts of the world. It features lavishly decorated Torah crowns,
pointers, finials and shields from Afghanistan, Algeria, Austria, England, France,
Germany, Holland, Hungary, Ottoman Empire (Greece and Turkey), Georgia (of the
former Soviet Union), Morocco, Israel, Italy, early 20th century Palestine, Persia,
Poland, Russia, Tunisia, the United States, and Yemen.

A suite of classic post-World War II works originally designed by renowned architect
Philip Johnson and the prominent Abstract Expressionist sculptor Ibram Lassaw for
Congregation Kneses Tifereth Israel in Port Chester, New York, is also on view in
Culture and Continuity. Included are sections of a large wall sculpture/bimah
screen, the eternal lamp, the Torah ark, and two of the four bimah chairs.
Television excerpts from the Museum’s National Jewish Archive of Broadcasting are
also included. The entire exhibition is accompanied by a series of thematic, random
access audio guides using MP3 technology, including a Director’s Highlights Tour
with The Jewish Museum’s Director Joan Rosenbaum and WNYC Radio’s Brian Lehrer.