Published: November 16, 2010
Rosenbach Museum & Library announces the acquisition of two artistically and culturally significant portraits originally belonging to the Gratz family, a prominent early American Jewish family who lived in Philadelphia. The paintings include a portrait of philanthropist, social activist and Jewish leader Rebecca Gratz painted in 1831 by Thomas Sully, and a portrait of her brother, Joseph Gratz. by George Peter Alexander Healy (not dated).
Both portraits were originally painted in Philadelphia, and documentation suggests the portrait of Rebecca Gratz has not been on public view since 1922 and the portrait of Joseph Gratz has never been exhibited. After two generations apart, the portraits of Rebecca and Joseph have joined portraits of other Gratz family members in the Rosenbach’s collection, and now are on display.
These new acquisitions hold special significance to the Rosenbach Museum & Library and the Gratz descendants. The Rosenbach was founded by book dealer A.S.W. Rosenbach and his brother and business partner Philip, whose ancestry connects to the Gratz family, dating back to the Eighteenth Century. The brothers collected Gratz family items throughout their lifetimes, and the Rosenbach Museum has followed their lead by acquiring a number of additional Gratz items in the past several decades.
The Rosenbach now has important holdings of Gratz family portraiture, silver, furniture, ceramics, books and manuscripts related to the family. The portraits of Rebecca and Joseph have been privately held by descendants of the Gratz family since their creation and were purchased by the Rosenbach from Henry Walkem Joseph, a descendant of Sara Gratz Moses Joseph, the niece of Rebecca Gratz.
“My family and I believe this is the right time for the portraits of Rebecca and Joseph Gratz to return to Philadelphia. The Rosenbach Museum & Library is the only place we considered suitable for them,” said Joseph. “In the historic townhouse of the Rosenbach brothers, Rebecca and Joseph will once again join the paintings of my other ancestors, all hung together as I remember them in my grandfather’s house. That the Rosenbach Museum & Library’s founders are related to the Gratz family makes this event even more gratifying. Our hope is that the public will be able to enjoy and learn about these great portraits and understand the contributions this early American Jewish family made to Philadelphia’s history.”
Rosenbach Museum & Library Director Derick Dreher noted that there are only three known portraits of Rebecca Gratz by Thomas Sully; two are at the Rosenbach and the other is at the Delaware Art Museum. “Thanks to our supporters, all of them are now in the greater Philadelphia region, where they were created. We’re thrilled to present two of them here at the Rosenbach,” he said.
The museum is at 2008-2010 Delancey Place. For more information, www.rosenbach.org or 215-732-1600.
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