Portraiture and Assimilation in Vienna: <i>The Case of Hans Tietze and Erica Tietze-Conrat</i>

Catherine M. Soussloff

in Diasporas and Exiles

Published by University of California Press

Published in print October 2002 | ISBN: 9780520228641
Published online May 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780520926899 | DOI:
Portraiture and Assimilation in Vienna: The Case of Hans Tietze and Erica Tietze-Conrat

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This chapter sketches the history of Jewish portraiture and points out that assimilation, one of the effects of Emancipation, issued in portraits of Jews in which there are no overt signs of their Jewishness. This was so in colonial and federal America as well as in central Europe in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. But to deny Jewish content to such portraits is to abstract these portraits from their historical and social contexts. It is also to fly in the face of both recent work in museum studies and an historical interpretation of art. Portraiture is viewed as a transaction between the artist, those who sit for the portrait, and the audience. A crucial component is the placement of the work of art. The portraits in question, free as they are of overt Jewish content, were viewed in the parlors and living rooms of emancipated American and European Jews. The portraits thus represent an ideal of assimilation, “unmarked by dress, no longer residents of the ghetto.” But viewed in context—including both their social history and their placement—these portraits signify both the desire not to signify their subjects' Jewishness, and at the same time (and for this very reason) their subjects' Jewish identity.

Keywords: Emancipation; Jewish portraits; assimilation; Jews; Jewish identity

Chapter.  9318 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Judaism and Jewish Studies

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