Moritz Daniel Oppenheim

Moritz Daniel Oppenheim

Self portrait

Born (1800-01-07)January 7, 1800
Hanau, Germany
Died February 26, 1882(1882-02-26) (aged 82)
Frankfurt am Main, Germany
Nationality German
Education Conrad Westermayr, Jean-Baptiste Regnault, Bertel Thorwaldsen, Barthold Georg Niebuhr, Friedrich Overbeck
Known for Painting
Notable work Return of the Jewish Volunteer, The Kidnapping of Edgardo Mortara, Mignon and the Harper, Italian Genre Scene, Confirmation, Sabbath Blessing
The Return of the Jewish Volunteer from the Wars of Liberation to His Family Still Living According to Old Customs (1833-34)
Portrait of Leopold Zunz

Portrait of Fanny Hensel (1842)

Moritz Daniel Oppenheim (January 7, 1800 in Hanau, Germany February 26, 1882 in Frankfurt am Main) was a German painter who is often regarded as the first Jewish painter of the modern era. His work was informed by his cultural and religious roots at a time when many of his German Jewish contemporaries chose to convert. Oppenheim is considered by the scholar Ismar Schorsch to be in sympathy with the ideals of the Wissenschaft des Judentums movement, because he remained "fair to the present" without denying his past.


Oppenheim was born to Orthodox Jewish parents at Hanau, Germany in 1800; he died at Frankfurt am Main in 1882. His niece was the wife of student and fellow painter Benjamin Prins, Rosa Benari.

He received his first lessons in painting from Conrad Westermayr, in Hanau, and entered the Munich Academy of Arts at the age of seventeen. Later he visited Paris, where Jean-Baptiste Regnault became his teacher, and then went to Rome, where he studied with Bertel Thorwaldsen, Barthold Georg Niebuhr, and Johann Friedrich Overbeck. There he studied the life of the Jewish ghetto and made sketches of the various phases of its domestic and religious life, in preparation for several large canvases which he painted upon his return to Germany. In 1825 he settled at Frankfurt, and shortly after exhibited his painting David Playing Before Saul, to see which a great number of admirers from all parts of Europe visited his studio. In 1832, at the instance of Goethe, Charles Frederick, Grand Duke of Saxe-Weimar-Eisenach conferred upon him the honorary title of professor.

Selected works

Oppenheim's studies of Jewish life, his pictures of Emperor Joseph II and Moses Mendelssohn, and his portraits from life of Ludwig Börne and other contemporary Jewish notables, established his reputation as one of the foremost Jewish artists of the nineteenth century. His Return of the Jewish Volunteer is among his most famous works and was frequently reproduced; others include Mignon and the Harper, Italian Genre Scene, Confirmation, and Sabbath Blessing. All these are characteristic examples of his power of conception and skill at grouping.


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