From Mendelssohn To Mendelssohn: German Jewish Encounters in Art, Music, and Material Culture

On View: 
Jan 26, 2016 to Dec 16, 2016

One of the most iconic works of art in The Magnes Collection, returns on display before being loaned internationally on the occasion of the Lutheran Reformation in Wittenberg, Germany (Spring-Summer 2017).  

Moritz D. Oppenheim (1800-1882), 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 among scholars and intellectual associates Moses Mendelssohn (1729-1786) and Gotthold Ephraim Lessing (1729-1781), and the Swiss theologian Johann Kaspar Lavater (1741-1801), 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 vividly evoked in this work through a host of visual connections to history, literature, and Jewish culture.  

From Mendelssohn to Mendelssohn
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From Mendelssohn To Mendelssohn reawakens the original setting of the painting and the history of the Mendelssohn family, including the lives and works of Moses Mendelssohn’s grandchildren, composers Fanny (1805-1847) and Felix (1809-1847), by activating the extensive holdings of German-Jewish ritual art, prints, rare volumes, manuscripts, and material culture. The installation, aimed at creating a renewed imagined space of intercultural dialog animated by the presence of a historic piano (Wieck, Dresden, ca. 1860)  from UC Berkeley’s musical instrument collection, is the new setting of a salon-like space of intellectual and artistic gathering.

From Mendelssohn to Mendelssohn (2016) | Exhibition Installation Images
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The exhibition is part of The Mendelssohn Project, a series of lectures and musical performances at The Magnes, presented in collaboration with the Office of the Dean of Arts and Humanities, the Departments of Music and History, and Cal Performances.  

From Mendelssohn To Mendelssohn (2016) | Exhibition Texts
by magnesmuseum on Scribd


From Mendelssohn To Mendelssohn: Exhibition Panel Texts by magnesmuseum on Scribd

Exhibition Team

Curator: Francesco Spagnolo
Undergraduate Curatorial Apprentice: Lauren Cooper
Contributing Scholars: Anthony J. Cascardi (Dean of Arts and Humanities), Thomas Laqueur (History), John Efron (History), Nicholas Mathew (Music)
Registrar: Julie Franklin
Exhibition Design: Gordon Chun Design 


Major support for The Magnes comes from the Helzel Family Foundation, the Magnes Museum Foundation, The Magnes Leadership Circle, and The Office of the Chancellor at the University of California, Berkeley. 

Exhibitions Information
The Magnes Collection of Jewish Art and Life, 2121 Allston Way, Berkeley
Opening Hours: 
Tu-Fri 11am-4pm and during scheduled public programs
The Magnes Collection of Jewish Art and Life
2121 Allston Way
Berkeley, CA
United States
Exhibition Resources
Media Galleries


Lavater and Lessing Visit Moses Mendelssohn (1856) by Moritz Daniel Oppenheim

Lavater and Lessing Visit Moses Mendelssohn (1856) by Moritz Daniel Oppenheim

Lavater and Lessing Visit Moses Mendelssohn (1856) by Moritz Daniel Oppenheim

Painting by Moritz Daniel Oppenheim (1800-1882) portraying the meeting of scholars Moses Mendelsohn (1729-1786), Gotthold Ephraim Lessing (1729-1781) and theologian Johann Kaspar Lavater (1741-1801) in Berlin (1763).

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. Above them hangs a brass lamp (Judenstern). A servant at right is holding holding a tray, under a door with a Hebrew blessing (Deuteronomy 28: 6).

Accession No.: 75.18. Gift of Vernon Stroud, Eva Linker, Gerda Mathan, Ilse Feiger and Irwin Straus in memory of Frederick and Edith Straus. 

View Magnes Database Record