Moritz Oppenheim - Carlette von Rothschild

Wedding portrait of Charlotte von Rothschild                           

Oppenheim received the patronage of the Rothschilds, the famous family of financiers, philanthropists, patrons of the arts and sciences who greatly contributed to Jewish causes; their encouragement allowed him to attain a level of fame as a painter that would before have been impossible for a Jew. He also worked in their service, and the domain they assigned him was that of the "private portrait," a conventional genre of portraiture which presented its subject as a member of the bourgeoisie and conveyed economic status. The commissions of the Rothschilds' grand society portraits, meanwhile, were reserved for more famous artists.

Beginning in the late 1830s, Oppenheim took the traditional bourgeois private portrait a step further. The Rothschilds began to require paintings that also showed their professional credentials -- portraits hung in a bank could help establish the image of the Jewish owner as a professional and dispel the stereotyped image of the hated moneylender. To serve their needs, Oppenheim invented a new genre of portrait and iconography that presented the subject's professional image as a banker. It was Oppenheim's "banker portraits" that earned him the title "painter of the Rothschilds."[1]

The cousins Charlotte and Lionel de Rothschild were married in Frankfurt in 1836 with great sumptuousness, publicity and fanfare. Their portraits, each painted separately, reflect the couple's membership in the great banking family.

Charlotte appears in front of a background of Mount Vesuvius that symbolized her father's Naples bank. The background in Lionel's portrait, an English park with medieval castle ruins in the background, symbolized his father's London bank. Charlotte's portrait presents an opulent and graceful figure, her gown flowing gently, her splendid jewelry painted in great detail. The full effect is reminiscent of Botticelli's women, especially the famous Primavera. Oppenheim consciously brings forth the aura of the Italian Renaissance and alludes to the legendary renaissance banking family, the Medici, to whom the Rothschilds had been frequently compared.[2]

Destineis medium
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[1] Weber, Annette. "Moritz Daniel Oppenheim and the Rothschilds" in Heuberger, Georg and Anton Merk, eds. Moritz Daniel Oppenheim: Jewish Identity in 19th Century Art. catalog of an exhibition at the Jüdisches Museum, Frankfurt, December 16 1999-April 2, 2000. Copyright ? 1999 Wienand Verlag, Jüdisches Museum, Frankfurt. P. 177. [back]

[2] Weber, p. 178. [back]

See genre painting



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