American Jewish Historical Society

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Loeb Photographic Resource Library Will Open as AJHS Web Site

Rachel Machado Phillips Levy (1769-1839) Painting attributed to Adolph Ulrich Wertmüller, c.1795

A generous grant from the Ambassador John L. Loeb, Jr. Foundation has made possible the creation of a research tool devoted to capturing an image of every known portrait – miniature or full size – of an American Jew painted before 1860. The database will include reproductions of each portrait ; information about the painting, sitter and painter ; the social and historical background of each ; and guides for further research. The Society, which has named the database “The Ambassador John L. Loeb, Jr. Photographic Resource Library,” intends to load the images and data onto a website in 2001. AJHS already owns the world´s largest collection of portraits and miniatures of American Jews before 1860, more than 60 portraits in all. To date, the project has identified an additional 190 portraits nationally, and the database continues to grow. “These portraits record the faces and the stories of the founding fathers and mothers of American Jewry,” Ambassador Loeb has said. “But until now, few have even known that these portraits exist. Many of them were painted by the leading artists of the day : Thomas Sully, Ralph Earl, Henry Inman, John Wesley Jarvis, Charles Peale Polk, John Ramage, John Wollaston, and Gilbert Stuart. We want to assure that these images and the important stories they carry about the first two centuries of American Jewish history are available to the world.” If readers of this newsletter know of any portraits of American Jews painted before 1860 that may be in public or private collections – including their own –we are asking for your help in their identification. The database and website will safeguard all reproduction rights and the anonymity of private owners, if they so desire. For further information, or to help us identify early American Jewish portraits, please contact Ellen Smith, AJHS curator at 2 Thornton Road, Waltham, MA 02453; (781) 891-8110 ; e-mail: esmith@ajhs.org.


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