The present work is painted on one of the artist’s typical wooden panels, many shipped from an English supplier. Panel was the perfect support for Kaufmann’s rich pigments applied in complex layers and details made by a fine brush which vivify his subject. A front view, with the body turned slightly, affords the viewer both a connection with the model and a close study of the parokhet (the curtain which covers the Torah Ark) and its gold embroidered date translating to “1847,” which likely refers to the date of its donation to the synagogue.
Kaufmann’s portraits preserve and celebrate Jewish culture, and can also be placed among the finest Naturalist and Realist paintings of his contemporaries in France and Germany. Throughout his lifetime, the artist’s works were purchased by a diverse group of collectors, including the Austrian state minister for culture and education and the reigning prince of Lichtenstein. The wide ranging reach of Kaufmann’s work was further secured by its exhibition at the Exposition Universelle of 1900 in Paris, where he was one of many European artists revealing regional, cultural themes to a global audience (Richard I. Cohen, “Artist’s Biographies,” p. 175-6; Gabriel P. Weisberg, “Jewish Naturalist Painters: Understanding and Competing in the Mainstream,” The Emergence of Jewish Artists in Nineteenth-Century Europe, exh. cat., The Jewish Museum, 2001-2002, p. 149). More recently, Kaufmann’s place in the history of celebrated Viennese portraiture was recognized with his inclusion in a landmark exhibition Facing the Modern: The Portrait in Vienna 1900 at the National Gallery, London in 2013-2014.
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