Portrait of Wolf Moscheles (1744-1812)

UnknownEarly 1780s

Jewish Museum in Prague

Jewish Museum in Prague

Unsigned and undated, this is a portrait of Wolf Moscheles (1744–1812), a member of the prominent Moscheles family, scholar, and one of the representatives of the Prague Jewish Community. Wolf, son of Joachim Moses Moscheles, was married to Relle, née Gitschin (1745–1815), daughter of the Prague Jewish Community leader Loew Gitchin. The epitome of a Haskalah scholar, he is portrayed as an intellectual in his study. The Haskalah, or Jewish Enlightenment, was an intellectual movement in Europe that lasted approximately from the 1770s to the 1880s. The literal meaning of the word “haskalah” is “enlightenment,” and it is derived from the Hebrew sekhel, which means “reason” or “intellect,” and the movement was inspired by the European Enlightenment and adopted many of its values. The specific Jewish aspects of this intellectual rationalism promoted by the movement’s adherents, the Maskilim, consisted largely in encouraging Jews to study secular subjects, to learn both Indo-European and Semitic languages, and to enter fields outside of the traditional Jewish occupations in the Diaspora (agriculture, crafts, the arts and science). The Maskilim tried to assimilate into European society in their dress, language, manners, and allegiance to the ruling power.

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  • Title: Portrait of Wolf Moscheles (1744-1812)
  • Creator: Unknown
  • Date: Early 1780s
  • Location: Prague, Bohemia
  • Physical Dimensions: w59 x h73 cm (without frame)
  • Provenance: Jewish Museum in Prague
  • Type: Painting
  • External Link: www.jewishmuseum.cz
  • bibliography: Altshuler, David, The Precious Legacy: Judaic Treasures from the Czechoslovak State Collections, New York: Summit Books, pp. 86-87, 264, cat. no. 224 and 225; Kosáková, Eva (ed.) 100 Items from the Jewish Museum in Prague: A Selection by Curators, Prague: Jewish Museum in Prague, 2006, p. 102, cat. no. 40; Veselská, Magda (ed.) Defying the Beast: The Jewish Museum in Prague 1906-1940, Prague: Jewish Museum in Prague, p. 46, cat. no. 2
  • basic caption: Unknown Artist, Portrait of Wolf Moscheles, oil on canvas, 73 x 59 cm, Prague, Bohemia, early 1780s
  • Ownership History: Until 1917 in the possession of the Moscheles family; in 1917 donated to the Jewish Museum in Prague (1937 inventory no. 8)