The Raising of the Law in the Portuguese Synagogue of Amsterdam

This light-filled synagogue scene was painted by a Jewish artist who exhibited with the Impressionists.

Jacques Emile Edouard Brandon

Artist Jacques Emile Edouard Brandon (1831-1897) was born in Bordeaux, France, to parents of Sephardic descent. He was part of the first generation of professional Jewish artists and began his career painting Christian devotional scenes before turning to Jewish subject matter.

Brandon was fascinated by the aesthetic and spiritual power of the synagogue, and was likely drawn to the imposing Portuguese synagogue of Amsterdam, also known as the Esnoga, because of his own Sephardic heritage. While worshipers in the foreground wear prayer shawls or traditional oriental garb, most of the figures wear genteel Western clothes consistent with the cosmopolitan character of this prosperous Jewish community.

Brandon was closely associated with such notable artists as Camille Corot and Edgar Degas, and exhibited at the controversial First Impressionist Exhibition of 1874. The influence of Impressionism can be observed in this painting’s muted color palette and attention to the play of light and shadow.

From the album Synagogal Music in the Baroque, by A. Cacere, music typical of what would be heard in the late 1800s in the synagogue in Amsterdam.
Name: The Raising of the Law in the Portuguese Synagogue of Amsterdam
Artist: Jacques Emile Edouard Brandon
Origin: France, 1897
Medium: Oil on Canvas, Painting
Dimensions: 17 x 35 in.
Credit: Gift of the College of Jewish Studies
Catalog Number: 68.2.41
Asher LibraryHebrews of the Portugese Nation: Conversos and Community in Early Modern Amsterdam

—Miriam Bodian (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1997)

Asher LibraryRemembering Jewish Amsterdam

—Philo Bregstein and Salvador Bloemgarten (New York: Holmes & Meier, 2004)

External ResourceThe Music of the Amsterdam Sephardim: A Musicological Survey —Anton Molenaar (Shofar vol. 18, no.4 -- Summer, 2000) Available onsite, or online to Spertus members
Asher LibraryAn Alternative Path to Modernity: The Sephardi Diaspora in Western Europe —Yosef Kaplan (Leiden: Brill, 2000)
Asher LibraryReluctant Cosmopolitans: The Portuguese Jews of Seventeenth-Century Amsterdam —Daniel Swetschinski (Portland, OR: Vallentine Mitchell, 2000)