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In Moses Mendelssohns Study

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

Oppenheim (18001882) portrays an imagined meeting between scholars and
intellectual associates, Moses Mendelssohn (17291786) and Gotthold Ephraim
Lessing (17291781), and the Swiss theologian Johann Kaspar Lavater (17411801),
at the Berlin residence of Moses Mendelssohn, located at Spandauerstrae 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 interactionthe encounters between Mendelssohn and Lavater on one
hand, and Mendelssohns friendship with Lessing on the otherwhich Oppenheim
merged into his canvas. The actual meetings between Mendelssohn and Lavater,
which took place in 176364, were followed by the failed attempt on the part
of the theologian to convince Mendelssohn to embrace Christianity. The wellknown friendship between Mendelssohn and Lessing, one of the high points of
the haskalah, or JewishEnlightenment, 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 Lessings 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 spacean idea
embodied in Oppenheims work. Each aspect of Oppenheims painting thus
represents a visual cue pointing at history and its interpretations.

Above the three men hangs a brass lamp, which combines a

chandelier (on the top section) with an oil lamp (at bottom),
used respectively for illumination, and for ritual purposes on
the Sabbath and other Jewish holidays.

The shape of Mendelssohns profile may have been based

upon the silhouette included in Lavaters Physiognomische
Fragmente (Physiognomic Fragments for the Promotion of the
Knowledge and Love of Mankind, 17751778). This represents
quite an ironic turn on Oppenheims part. In his work, Lavater
described Mendelssohn as a companionable, brilliant soul,
with piercing eyes, the body of an Aesopa man of keen
insight, exquisite taste and wide erudition [...] frank and openhearted, ending the praise with the wish that Mendelssohn
could acknowledge, together with Plato and Moses [...] the
crucified glory of Christ.

The chess board positioned at the center among the three

characters is evocative of Lessings drama, Nathan der
Weise (Nathan the Wise, 1779). Set in Jerusalem during the
Third Crusade, the drama exalted the virtues of intellectual
exchange and religious tolerance expressed by the meeting
between a Jewish merchant, Nathan, and the enlightened
sultan, Saladin, over a game of chess. The character of Nathan
was modeled after Moses Mendelssohn. In the painting,
the chess board also represents a visual pun: Red has been
put in checkmate by White, in a likely reference to the
intellectual superiority attributed to the association between
Mendelssohn and Lessing over Lavaters stance.

On the right, a female figure is entering the room holding

a tray with three coffee cups. Moritz Oppenheims study
for this female figure is also part of The Magnes Collection,
and the figure has been identified by some scholars as
Mendelssohns wife, Fromet Guggenheim (17371912). Above
her, the door frame is inscribed with a blessing from the
Hebrew Bible:
(barukh atah bevoekha u-varukh atah be-tzetekha: Blessed shalt thou be
when thou comest in, and blessed shalt thou be when thou
goest out, Deuteronomy 28:6). This biblical quotation may in
turn be construed as a reference to the friendship between
Mendelssohn and Lessing, as well as (in yet another ironic
turn) to the transience of the conflicted relationship between
Mendelssohn and Lavater (whose hat and walking stick appear
on the lower right of the painting).

Behind the three men, on the back wall, stands a bookshelf,

in which books of different sizes are displayed. The sizes of
the books may be a reference to the composite structure
of Mendelssohns intellectual world, in which tall Jewish
religious texts (especially the Talmud) and regular size secular
(and philosophical) volumes seamlessly coexist. Next to the
bookshelf, at the left of the wall, hangs a framed mizrach (,
the Hebrew word for East is faintly legible), a wall-hanging
indicating the direction being faced during prayer according
to the Jewish ritual. This, along with the Sabbath lamp hanging
from the ceiling, a basin on wall (to be used for ritual hand
washing), the head covering anachronistically placed over
Mendelssohns head (no contemporary iconographic source
depicts Mendelssohn wearing any form of head covering), the
ritual fringes of a tallit qatan visible under Mendelssohns
red overcoat, and the Hebrew inscription on the door frame,
can be seen as attempts on the part of the painter to interpret
Mendelssohns attachment to Judaism through the lenses
of the canons of Jewish observance that dominated the
mid-19thcentury, when the painting was made.

Lavater has his hand on an open book, on the page of

which Oppenheim painted the name, Bonnet. The book
is in fact Lavaters German translation, titled Philosophische
Palingenesie (Philosophical Palingenesis, Zurich, 17691770),
of a work by Charles Bonnet (17201793), La palingnsie
philosophique (1769). The publication of this volume
was leveraged by the theologian in his attempt to coerce
Mendelssohn into offering a public reply concerning the
essence of Christianity.
A tall volume, titled Strazze 1770 (Notebook 1770), featured
noticeably on the lower left of the scene, sets the scene
chronologically in 1770, the year in which Lavaters translation
of Bonnets Philosophical palingenesis was published.

Moritz Oppenheims signature and date appear prominently

at the bottom right of the painting.

Moritz D. Oppenheim (18001882), 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 (17291786) and Gotthold Ephraim
Lessing (17291781), and the Swiss theologian, Johann Kaspar Lavater (17411801),
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 culture
to 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 Mendelssohns
grandchildren, composers Fanny (18051847) and Felix (18091847).
The installation, aimed at creating a renewed imagined space of intercultural dialog
animated by a historic piano from UC Berkeleys musical instrument collection,
isthe new setting of a salon-like space of intellectual and artistic gathering.


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

Germany, ca. 18th century
Pewter with brass spigot
Gift of the Estate of Charlotte Stein Pick,

At the Heart of a Controversy:

Lavaters translation of the Swiss naturalist and philosopher
C.Bonnets essay, La palingnsie philosophique (1769),
prompted him to approach Mendelssohn in order to engage
him in a public debate on the essence of Christianity. In
Oppenheims painting, the book is depicted open to its title
page on the table in Mendelssohns living room. On one of the
two visible open pages the word Bonnet is faintly legible.
Charles Bonnet (17201793)

Herrn C. Bonnets [...] Philosophische Palingenesie

[...] und welcher insonderheit das Wesentliche seiner
Untersuchungen ber das Christenthum enthlt, aus
dem Franzsischen bersetzt, und mit Anmerkungen
herausgegeben von Johann Caspar Lavater (Philosophical
palingenesis [...] by Mr. C. Bonnet [...] containing as a special

feature his research on the essence of Christianity, translated

from French, edited and annotated by Johann Caspar Lavater)

Zurich, Bey Orell, Gessner, Fssli und Compagnie, 17691770, vol. 1
B1943.P352 G4 1769, Reproduction courtesy of The Bancroft Library

A Game of Chess
After a painting by Jehudo Epstein (18701945)

In drei Bgen Matt! (Checkmate in three moves!)

Germany, ca. 1900
Lithographic reproduction of engraving
Gift of the Harry B. and Branka J. Sondheim Judaica Collection, 2000.19.4

Henry Landa (b. Kiev, Ukraine, 1931)

Chess set
Kazakhstan, 1942
Scrapwood, oven paint
Gift 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, and
spent the last years of the Second World War as refugees in
Kazakhstan. Mr. Landa donated the set to The Magnes in 2015.


Serving Coffee
Moritz Daniel Oppenheim (18001882)

Servant with Tray (Study for oil painting)

Germany, ca. 1850
Graphite on paper
Gift of the Magnes Museum Womens Guild, 75.156

Demitasse set with base coffee cups, inscribed with NC

[Nissim de Camondo] monogram
Paris, France, Jullien Fils Ain, 1855
Porcelain China
Gift of James Katz,,

Banker Nissim de Camondo (Constantinople 1830Paris 1889)

married Elise Fernandez in 1855. He and his brother, Abraham
Behor (18291889), received a nobility title from Victor
Emmanuel II for their financial support of Italys unification
in 1867, and moved to Paris with their families in 1869. Their
home in rue de Monceau houses the Nissim de Camondo


Moritz Daniel Oppenheim (18001882)

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

Germany, n.d.
Graphite on paper
Gift of the Magnes Museum Womens Guild, 75.157

Jewish mens ritual head covering

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

Jewish mens ritual head covering

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


Mendelssohn Family Life

Jakob Gottlieb Thelott (17081760), after a painting by
LucasConrad Pfandzelt (17161786)

Wahre Abbildung, Der andem Iuden Ioseph S

Oppenheimers [...] Execution (A true depiction of the

Execution of the Jew Ioseph S Oppenheimer [Joseph ben

Issachar Suesskind, 1698 or 16991738)
Augsburg, Germany, 1738
Engraving on handmade rag paper
Gift of Dr. Elliot Zaleznik, 76.305


Herz Homberg, n.d.

Engraving on paper
Judah L. Magnes Museum purchase, Siegfried S. Strauss Collection,

Portrait of Naphtali Herz Homberg (17491841), who studied

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

Attributed to Wilhelm Hensel (17941861)

Fanny Hensel, geb. Mendelssohn Bartholdy (Fanny Hensel,

ne Mendelssohn Bartholdy)

Germany, 1847
Gift of Helene Eutzmann Hayne, 76.43


August Weger (18231892), after a bust by Hermann Knaur


Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy

Leipzig, Germany, Verlag v. Baumgrtners Buchhandlung, n.d. (ca. 1850)
Engraving on paper
Judah L. Magnes Museum purchase, Siegfried S. Strauss Collection,

August Weger (18231892) and Johann-Paul Singer (1823?)

Wilhelm Hensel und Fanny Hensel geb. MendelssohnBartholdy (Wilhelm Hensel and Fanny Hensel born


Leipzig, Germany, Alexander Alboth, 1846

Engraving on Paper
Judah L. Magnes Museum purchase, Siegfried S. Strauss Collection,

G. Mller, after a drawing by Richard Pttner (18421913)

Das Georgenhaus und die Heuwage in Leipzig [View of

Leipzig Jewish quarter]

Die Gartenlaube (Leipzig), 32/1871

Lithographic reproduction of engraving
Gift of the Harry B. and Branka J. Sondheim Judaica Collection,


Frederick James Smyth

Funeral of Mendelssohn, at Leipzig

The Illustrated London News (London), November 20, 1847, p. 324
Lithographic reproduction of engraving
Gift of the Harry B. and Branka J. Sondheim Judaica Collection,

Moses Mendelssohn as Icon


ber die Haupgrundstze der schnen Knste und

Wissenschaften (On the Main Principles of the Fine Arts and

German, Latin, Hebrew

Germany, n.d. (ca. 1781)
Engraving on paper
Gift of William P. Wreden, 75.2

Allegorical tribute to Moses Mendelssohn, titled after his

essay On the main principles of fine arts and sciences (1757).
Mendelssohns portrait is surrounded by German excerpts
from his publications, allegorical images of the Arts, images
of open books that include the Bible printed in both Hebrew
and German as well as Mendelssohns own Philosophical
Writings (1771) and Phdon (1767), and banderoles with Latin
quotations from various authors, including Seneca.



Moses Mendelssohn, 17291786

Offset lithograph
Gift of Seymour Fromer, 76.186


Moses Mendelssohn
Engraving on paper
Judah L. Magnes Museum purchase, Siegfried S. Strauss Collection,


Ernst Carl Gottlieb Thelott (17601834), after a watercolor

attributed to Johannes Pfenninger (17651825)

Portraits of Spinoza, Mendelssohn and Lessing

Printed in Friedrich Heinrich Jacobi (17431819), Ueber die Lehre des
Spinoza in Briefen an den Herrn Moses Mendelssohn (Concerning the
Doctrine of Spinoza in Letters to Mr. Moses Mendelssohn)
Breslau, G. Lwe, 1789
B3998 J33 1789, Reproduction courtesy of The Bancroft Library

Friedrich Jacobis work, originally published in 1785, attacked

both Moses Mendelssohn and Gotthold Lessing, accusing
the latter of Spinozism, or pantheism and thus, implicitly,
of atheism. These accusations were based upon an alleged
conversation between Jacobi and Lessing that was not too
dissimilar from the one between Mendelssohn and Caspar
Lavater that is the focus of Moritz Oppenheims 1856 painting.
The book gave way to the Pantheism Dispute. Its second
edition was introduced by two vignettes. The first portrayed
the philosopher Baruch Spinoza (16321677). The second
was a double portrait in which Mendelssohn appears to be
ominously shadowing Lessing.


Johann Caspar Lavater (17411801)

Silhouette of Moses Mendelssohn

Printed in Johann Caspar Lavater, Physiognomische Fragmente
(Physiognomic Fragments)
Winterthur, Heinrich Steiners und Compagnie, 17831787, vol. 2: 136
BF843 .L274 1783, reproduction courtesy of The Bancroft Library

Originally published in 17751778, Lavaters studies on

physiognomy included a silhouette of Mendelssohns
profile, which may have been the source for his portrait in
M.Oppenheims 1856 painting. About the silhouette, Lavater
wrote: You probably know this silhouette. Itis very dear to
me! It speaks volumes! I marvel at its contours! My gaze runs
from the marvelous arch of the forehead to the sharp bones
of the eye. In these depths resides a Socratic soul. Mark
the wonderful transition from nose to upper lip [...] how
all this combines to make the divine truth of physiognomy
palpable and visible. Lavater described Mendelssohn as a
companionable, brilliant soul, with piercing eyes, the body
of an Aesopaman of keen insight, exquisite taste and wide
erudition [...] frank and open-hearted. [...] Yes, I see him,
Abrahams son, whotogether with Plato and Moseswill
surely recognize and worship the crucified Lord of Splendor!


Entering the Scholars Study

Synagogue window (door pediment)
San Francisco, Calif., United States, 19th C.
Glass, wood, lead
Gift of Seymour Fromer, 91.39

Nissim bar Sheshet

Synagogue plaque inscribed with shiviti text and biblical

Marrakech, Morocco, 1957
Graphite and colored pencil on paper

Sukkah decoration
Jerusalem, Palestine, Zukerman Press, n.d (late 19th C.)
Offset Lithograph

Ritual Jewish images inscribed in Hebrew with the biblical

verse, Blessed shalt thou be when thou comest in, and
blessed shalt thou be when thou goest out (Deuteronomy
28:6), which is engraved on the door frame of Moses
Mendelssohns study in Oppenheims painting.


Lamps for Everyday Use &


Hanging lamp and chandelier for Sabbath and Festivals

and for everyday use with eight oil wells, eight branches,
and drip pan
Germany, 18th century
The Peachy and Mark Levy Family Judaica Collection, 2015.6.93

Hanging lamp and chandelier for Sabbath and Festivals

with eight oil wells, seven branches, drip pan and crownshaped top
Eastern Europe, 18th century
Judah L. Magnes Museum purchase with funds provided by
ElieJ.Tennenbaum, 76.118

Hanging lamp and chandelier for Sabbath and Festivals

and for everyday use with eight oil wells, four branches,
and drippan
Germany, 19th century
The Peachy and Mark Levy Family Judaica Collection, 2015.6.124


Facing East
Mizrach with shiviti text and quotations from the Psalms
North Africa, ca. 1900
Gift of Geraldine and Robert Misrach, 88.50.2

A mizrach, named after the Hebrew word for east, is a

devotional plaque that designates the direction to be faced
during prayer. The Hebrew word also contains the acronym
mi-tzad zeh ruach chayim (from this side [comes] the spirit
of 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 Book
of Psalms (16:8; 19:8; 19:9; and 101:10). A mizrach appears on
the left of the back wall of Moses Mendelssohns study in
Oppenheims painting.


Tallit katan
Undergarment 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 (18551929)

Der Zweifler (The Doubter)

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

Carved wooden cane inscribed in Arabic script

Iran via Palestine, 19th century
Carved wood with black pigment
Gift of Helen Young Crawford, 68.5

Cane brought from Jerusalem by Professor Charles Young,

Professor of Hebrew, University of Chicago, 1900. Given to
the Magnes Memorial Museum by his daughter, Helen Young


The Mendelssohn Family

In the 18th century about 3,500 Jews lived in Berlin. They were not yet emancipated,
meaning that they did not enjoy civil rights. Rather, they were tolerated, an official
legal category that meant their residency and occupation rights were guaranteed
with letters of protection. This arrangement also meant that such rights could be
arbitrarily rescinded.
The leading figure of the small Berlin Jewish community was Moses Mendelssohn
(17291786). Born in the city of Dessau, he was the son of a poor Torah scribe.
When his tutor and intellectual mentor, Rabbi David Hirshl Frnkel moved to
Berlin to take up the post of chief rabbi in that city, Mendelssohn, aged fourteen,
followed him there. Working as a bookkeeper in a Jewish silk factory by day,
Mendelssohn, who had arrived in the capital speaking only Yiddish and knowing
only Jewish texts, soon learned Latin, Greek, German, French, and English. He
also studied various branches of contemporary and ancient philosophy, aesthetics,
language, music composition, and played piano as well as wrote music criticism. All
the while he remained a deeply pious Jew, steeped in the world of Jewish texts.
Mendelssohns reputation was such that he earned the title of the Jewish Socrates.
In 1763, the Berlin Jewish community honored him by absolving him of payment of
Jewish communal taxes.
Moses Mendelssohn was a genuine celebrity and was the most visible symbol of
the possibility of a Jew living in two worldsthe traditional Jewish and the modern
secular. As such he was befriended by both Jews and non-Jews. Writing to the
non-Jewish philosopher and playwright Gotthold Ephraim Lessing, the publisher
and poet Friedrich Nicolai remarked, I am indebted to [Mendelssohn] for the most
cheerful hours of the past winter and summer. I never left him, regardless of how
long we were together, without becoming either better or more learned. This was
a truly revolutionary sentiment, for rarely had a non-Jew spoken so warmly of a
Jew. It was, for most non-Jews, inconceivable that ones wisdom or moral character
could be improved by friendship with a Jew. Many other non-Jews who made
Mendelssohns acquaintance felt similarly.

In 1762 Mendelssohn married Fromet Guggenheim, who stemmed from a prominent

Hamburg Jewish family. Together they built a home that was a hub of social and
cultural activity, visited by Jews and non-Jews alike. Their situation soon propelled
them into Jewish high society.
The Mendelssohns marriage was a loving and happy one and together they had
ten children, six of whom survived into adulthood. Joseph, Abraham, Nathan,
Dorothea, Recha, and Henrietta all married into the wealthy Jewish elite, but the
temptations of non-Jewish culture and society, something that Mendelssohn himself
was able to control, proved a more difficult undertaking for his children. With
the exception of Joseph and Recha, all of the siblings converted to Christianity.
Dorothea, an author and translator, married the poet and critic, Karl Wilhelm
Friedrich Schlegel (after divorcing her first husband, banker Simon Veit). Abraham
Mendelssohn, who married Lea Solomon, was the father of Felix and Fanny
Mendelssohn-Bartholdy. Abraham had encouraged Felix to adopt the surname
Bartholdy in place of Mendelssohn in order to signify a final break with Judaism,
telling his son, There can no more be a Christian Mendelssohn than there can
be a Jewish Confucius. In defiance of his father, Felix never dropped the name
Mendelssohn. In 1822, Abraham and Lea, who had already had their children
baptized, converted to Christianity because, wrote Abraham to Fanny, it is the
religious form acceptable to the majority of civilized human beings. The ability to
be both fully Jewish and fully German, which was so natural to Moses and Fromet,
proved to be an accommodation that was too difficult to bear for the majority
of their own children, but not only them. In Berlin, between 1770 and 1830,
nearly 1,600 Jews were baptized, more than 1,200 of them in the first three
decades of the 19th century. It was referred to in German as the Taufepidemie,
theepidemic of baptisms.


Koret Professor of Jewish History, University of California, Berkeley

Moses Mendelssohn (17291786)

The son of a Torah scribe, Mendelssohn received a traditional
Jewish education in his native Dessau. He moved to Berlin in
1743, where he pursued Jewish and secular studies. In addition
to German and Hebrew, he acquired knowledge of Latin, Greek,
English, French, and Italian. Supporting himself as a merchant
and a partner in a silk factory, he engaged in an intense and
public literary and intellectual life. In 1762, he married Fromet
Guggenheim of Hamburg, and in 1763 he was he granted the
right of residence in Berlin by the king. Mendelssohn began to
publish his philosophical writings in 1754, initially under guidance
of Gotthold Ephraim Lessing (17291781), whom he had met in
the same year. In 1763, he was awarded the first prize of the
Prussian Royal Academy of Sciences for his Treatise on Evidence
in Metaphysical Knowledge, but once the academy elected
him as a member in 1771, King FrederickII refused to ratify its
decision. He published a German translation and commentary
of the Pentateuch, Sefer Netivot ha-Shalom (178083), printed
in Hebrew script. In 1769, he became embroiled in a dispute on
the Jewish religion fomented by the Swiss theologian Johann
Kaspar Lavater (17411801), and from then on, he confined most
of his literary activity to the sphere of Judaism.

Fromet Guggenheim (17371812)

A great-granddaughter of the Viennese Court Jew, Samuel
Oppenheimer (16301703), Fromet married Moses Mendelssohn
in 1762. They had six children. Among her ancestors was Joseph
Ben Issachar Suesskind Oppenheimer (1698 or 16991738), also
known as Jud Suess, Court Jew and confidential financial
adviser to the duke of Wuerttemberg, wrongly charged of
embezzlement and publicly hanged in 1738.

Abraham Ernest Mendelssohn-Bartholdy

Fanny (Ccilie) Mendelssohn (-Bartholdy) Hensel

Felix (Jakob Ludwig) Mendelssohn (-Bartholdy)




Abraham Mendelssohn (later Abraham Ernest MendelssohnBartholdy), the fifth child of Fromet and Moses Mendelssohn,
was a banker and philanthropist, and the father of Fanny and
Felix Mendelssohn. Together with his older brother, Joseph,
he was a founder of the enlightened circle of Jewish notables,
the Jewish liberal society Gesellschaft der Freunde (1792).
He was also a member of the Berlin Sing-Akademie, a musical
society later joined by his future wife, Lea Salomon. He moved
to Paris in 1797 to study, and in 1804 married Lea Salomon in
Hamburg, where they resided until moving to Berlin in 1811, and
where three of their four children were born (Fanny in 1805,
Felix in 1809 and Rebecka in 1811; the fourth, Paul, was born
in Berlin in 1812). Lea was the granddaughter of Daniel Itzig, a
Court Jew and community leader in Berlin, and the niece of
Sarah Levy (17611854), a pupil of Wilhelm Friedemann Bach
(Johann Sebastian Bachs eldest son), a keyboard performer and
a collector of music manuscripts of the Bach family. Abraham
acquired additional manuscripts from the widow of Carl Philipp
Emanuel Bach, eventually entrusting the music collection to
the Akademie. He and his wife decided to not have their sons
ritually circumcised according to Jewish tradition, and initially
raised their children without any religious education. The
Mendelssohn children were privately baptized in the Protestant
faith in 1816, and Abraham and Lea in 1822, in the French
Calvinist Church of Frankfurt. They took the surname Bartholdy
(Abraham eventually urged his son, Felix, to only use that, as a
distinction from the other Mendelssohns) following the example
of Leas brother, who had already converted to Christianity
several years before and adopted the name Bartholdy, after
a family dairy farm. The banking partnership with his brother
Joseph, Mendelssohn & Co., operated in Berlin until the end of
1938, when it was liquidated by the Nazi regime.

Composer, pianist and conductor Fanny Mendelssohn was the

sister of composer Felix Mendelssohn, the daughter of banker
and music collector Abraham Mendelssohn-Bartholdy, the
granddaughter of philosopher Moses Mendelssohn, and the
grandniece of performer and music collector, Sarah Levy, and of
the patroness of music, arts and literature, and Vienna salonnire,
Fanny von Arnstein (17581818). She was initially taught piano by
her mother, Lea Salomon, and later on by Ludwig Berger, and in
1816 by Marie Bigot in Paris. At age thirteen, Fanny performed in
public, from memory, all preludes from Bachs Well-Tempered
Clavier. She studied theory and composition with C.F. Zelter,
and in 1820 she enrolled in the Berlin Sing-Akademie. Her first
composition dates from December 1819, a lied in honor of her
fathers birthday; she subsequently mostly wrote lieder and
piano pieces, amounting to circa 500 compositions. Her father,
however, discouraged her to pursue music as a profession. In
1829, Fanny married the Prussian court painter Wilhelm Hensel
(18941861), with whom she had a child, Sebastian (later a family
biographer). In the following year, she began animating a salon,
for which she wrote and performed most of her compositions,
including a cantata and an oratorio on biblical themes, and
chamber works. Fanny lived in closed contact with her younger
brother, Felix, until his marriage in 1837. She began publishing her
compositions without Felixs involvement in 1846. Very few of
her compositions were published, including eleven numbered
works, and sixteen single pieces without opus number.

Felix Mendelssohn, a conductor, pianist, organist, and composer,

was a central figure of German music during the 1830s and 40s.
Mendelssohn was born in Hamburg, was educated in Berlin
and Paris, travelled extensively in France, England, and Italy. He
lived and worked in Berlin, London, Dsseldorf, and Leipzig. The
catalogue of his compositions comprises over one hundred and
fifty works, including 121 with opus numbers. His early musical
education was overseen by his mother, Lea. Along with his
sister, Fanny, he studied music theory, harmony, counterpoint
and composition with the Akademies director, CarlFriedrich
Zelter (Goethes musical confidant). His earliest composition
is from 1819. His general education advanced equally rapidly,
and he became an avid classicist, studying and translating Latin
and Greek literature. Encouraged by his father, Felix began to
take on progressively more ambitious musical projects: on his
twelfth birthday, a Singspiel he composed was performed in a
fully staged version, with an orchestra recruited from the royal
Kappelle, in a theater that had been specially built in a hall of
the Mendelssohns home in Berlin. In 1821, Zelter arranged a
two-week visit with Goethe in Weimar. In 1823, Mendelssohn
received from his maternal grandmother, Bella Salomon, a
manuscript copy of Bachs St. Matthew Passion. The following
year, he ended his apprenticeship under Zelter, and his mother
hired piano virtuoso Ignaz Moscheles to give Felix and Fanny
finishing piano lessons. In 1825, the family moved from the
home of Bella Salomon to a new residence at 3Leipzigerstrasse,
which became an important musical and cultural center, visited
by Heine, Hegel, Alexander von Humboldt, and many others.
As his works continued to be performed across Germany, in
1827, Felix, on his mothers recommendation, enrolled in the
University of Berlin, where he attended Hegels lectures on
aesthetics. With the revival of Bachs St. Matthew Passion
at the Berlin Sing-Akademie in 1829, Mendelssohns career

was propelled nationally and internationally. He travelled and

performed extensively in Germany, England, Austria, Italy,
and France, meeting with many great composers, performers,
critics, and poets. while at the same time remaining in constant
epistolary contact with his family in Berlin, and attending
family events there, for which he continued to write specially
composed works. In 1833 he was offered a three-year position
in Dsseldorf, conducting the choral and orchestral societies
and music for Catholic services. In 1835 he became the director
of the Gewandhaus and Thomasschule in Leipzig, where he
worked for twelve years, directing a yearly subscription series
of twenty concerts, in which he participated as conductor and
pianist, performing many of his own works and those of his
contemporaries, along with the German Classical repertoire. His
father died that same year, and he became close with his aunt,
Dorothea von Schlegel. In 1837 he married Ccile Jeanrenaud,
the daughter of a Huguenot minister. In 1841, Mendelssohn was
appointed Kapellmeister at the Berlin court, and the following
year (at his mothers behest) he accepted the position of
Generalmusikdirector, charged with overseeing sacred music
in the capital. His mother passed away that same year, and he
continued to also work in Leipzig, where in 1843 he began
teaching at the new music Conservatory, and received honorary
citizenship. In Berlin, he prepared a new setting of the Te Deum,
performed at the Berlin Cathedral marking the millennium of
the founding of the German Reich. Mendelssohn relocated
there at the end of the year, serving as the royal composer of
church music. He continued to work between Berlin, London,
Frankfurt, and Leipzig. His sister Fanny died in May of 1847, and
he died in Leipzig in November. A funeral service was held at
the Paulinerkirche in Leipzig on November 7, and he was buried
in Berlin next to his sisters grave.

The Scholars Bookshelf


Bookends depicting a man wearing a head
covering and a prayer shawl, reading from
Cast bronze alloy
LIB 67.212 and LIB 67.213

David ben Shlomoh Gans (15411613)

tzemach david (The offspring of David)
Frankfurt am Main, [5]452-1692
Jewish community of Kochi (Kerala, India), RB 62

Johann Christoph Georg Bodenschatz (1717

Kirchliche Verfassung der heutigen Juden,
sonderlich derer in Deutschland (The religious
condition of contemporary Jews, especially those
in Germany)
Frankfurt und Leipzig, Auf Kosten des Auctoris, 17481749
Gift of Temple Sinai (Oakland, Calif.), RB 93

Isaiah Horowitz (c. 15651630)

sefer shene luchot ha-berit (The two tablets of
the Law), Vol.2
Amsterdam, Imanuel Benvenisti, [5]409 [16481649]
Jewish community of Kochi (Kerala, India), RB OS72

seder ha-machzor cheleq rishon be-minhag

polin ... (Prayer book for the High Holy Days,
Part One, according to the Polish ritual)
Sulzbach, Aharon ben Zalman, [5]542 [17811782]


Petrus Cunaeus (15861638)

De Republyk Der Hebreen, of Gemeenebest
Der Joden, in Drie Boeken (The republic of the
Hebrews, or the Commonwealth of the Jews,
in three parts)
Amsterdam, Daniel van den Dalen, 1700
RB 16

Claude Fleury (16401723) and Daniel Ghys

De Zeeden Der Israeliten ... (The customs of
the Israelites)
Amsterdam, Robbert Blokland, 1702
RB 46

Yitzchaq ben Yehudah Abravanel (14371508)

perush ha-torah (Commentary on the
Venice, [Bragadin], 5339 [15781579]
Jewish community of Kochi (Kerala, India), RB 1/6

Yitzchaq ben Yehudah Abravanel (14371508)

perush ha-torah (Commentary on the
Hannover, Heinrich Jacob van Bashyusen, 1721
Jewish community of Kochi (Kerala, India), RB 1/4


Louis Vincent Aronson (18691940)
Bookends depicting the Tablets of the
Law with the Decalogue listed in Hebrew
according to Roman numerals, surmounted by
a six-pointed star and surrounded by rays of
light and rocks
New York, United States, 1922
Silver plate over cast Bronze alloy
Peachy and Mark Levy Family Judaica Collection,
2015.6.96 ab


Yitzchaq Aboab (end of 14th cent.)

sefer menorat ha-maor (Book of the
candlestick of light)
Sulzbach, Zalman ben Aharon, 1755
Jewish community of Kochi (Kerala, India), RB 806

Yoseph ben Ephraim Caro (14881575)

tur even ha-ezer (The Stone of Help [shulchan


Berlin, Zeev Wolf, [5]462 [17021703]
Jewish community of Kochi (Kerala, India), RB 14/3

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


Avraham Zacuto (14521515)

sefer ha-yuchasin (Book of lineage)


seder ha-tiqun le-leyl hoshana raba (Prayers

for the night vigil of Hoshana raba)
Amsterdam, Proops, [5]527 [17661767]
Gift of Seymour Fromer, RB 40

masekhet zevachim. talmud bavli im perush

rashi ve-tosafot u-fisqe tosafot u-mishnayiot
im perush ha-rambam (Babylonian Talmud:
Tractate Zevachim, with commentaries by Rashi
and Maimonides)
Hebrew and Aramaic
Frankfurt an der Oder, Michael Gottschalk - Johann
Christoph Beckmann, 1697
Jewish community of Liptovsk Mikul (Slovakia),

Paul Christian Kirchner (17th18th cent.) and

Sebastian Jugendres (16851765)
Idisches Ceremoniel ... (Jewish Ceremonial
Rites ...)


Nuremberg, Peter Conrad Monath, 1724
Gift of Rabbi Irving Frederick Reichert, RB 21

Karlsruhe, L. J. Held, 1755
Jewish community of Liptovsk Mikul (Slovakia),


Yoseph ben Ephraim Caro (14881575)

shulchan arukh ... orach chayyim (The set
table ... Manner of life)
Amsterdam, Kasman ben Yosef Barukh, [5]528 [1767
Jewish community of Kochi (Kerala, India), RB 249

Netanel Weil (16871769)

qorban netanel (Commentary on Talmud,
Tractates Moed and Nashim)


masekhet menachot im perush rashi ...

(Babylonian Talmud: Tractate Menachot, with
commentaries by Rashi and Maimonides)
Hebrew and Aramaic
Berlin and Frankfurt an der Oder, Michael Gottschalk,
[5]481 [1721]
Jewish community of Liptovsk Mikul (Slovakia),


Moses Mendelssohn and his family in 18th19th century publications

Sebastian Hensel (18301898)
Die Familie Mendelssohn 1729 bis 1847 Nach
Briefen und Tagebchern (The Mendelssohn
family (17291847) from letters and journals)
Berlin, B. Behr, 1898, 2 vols.
ML385.H54 v.12

kitve qodesh [...] sefer netivot ha-shalom. vehu chibur kolel chamishat chumshe torah im
targum ashkenazi u-biur me-et ha-chacham
ha-mefursam mohrr mosheh medesoy (Sacred
Scriptures [...] Sefer netivot ha-shalom, a
compendium of the five books of the Torah with
German translation and commentary by the wise
and sage rabbi Moses Mendelssohn)
Hebrew and German (in Hebrew script)
Vienna, Anton Schmid, 1818
RB 189

Abram Samuel Isaacs (18521920)

Step By Step. The Early Days of Moses
Philadelphia, The Jewish Publication Society of America,

Sebastian Hensel (18301898)

Die Familie Mendelssohn 1729 bis 1847 Nach
Briefen und Tagebchern (The Mendelssohn
family (17291847) from letters and journals)
Berlin, G. Reimer, 1911, 2 vols.
ML385 H52 v.12