James Northcote: Mendel Levin Nathanson (1780–1868) in a black coat and white shirt with tie. Signed and dated Js Northcote pinx 1803. Oil on canvas. 76×62 cm.
Jens Juel: Esther Herfurth (1777–1849) in a white dress with lace. Married 1799 to M. L. Nathanson. 1798. Unsigned. Oil on canvas. 68×52.5 cm. Both in late 19th century classical frames. (2).
Ellen Poulsen, A Catalogue Raisonné of the Works of Jens Juel no. 698, reproduced vol. II p. 452.
Exhibited: Kunstforeningen, “En Samling af Jens Juels Malerier, Tegninger og Kobbere”, 1828 no 59 and dated “malet 1798” (painted 1798) and “tilhører Nathanson” (owner Nathanson).
University of Copenhagen: “Fortegnelse over de Kunstgjenstande, der udstilles paa Universitetet i København. Danske Malere fra Abildgaard til nu”, Christmas 1843 no. 33. “Portrait. Tilhører Grosserer Nathanson”. (Portrait. Owner wholesaler Nathanson).
Industriforeningen, København, “Jødisk Udstilling”, 1908 no. 791 (Esther) and 787 (Mendel).
Kunstforeningen, “Jens Juels arbejder”, 1909 no. 131.
Fyns Stiftsmuseum Odense, “Jens Juel”, 1960 no. 102.
Kunstforeningen, “Jens Juel. Malerier i privat eje”, 1982 no. 67.
Kunstforeningen, “Indenfor Murene, Jødisk kunst og kultur i Danmark”, 1984 no. 39 reproduced p. 55.
Literature: E.F.S. Lund and C.C. Andersen (ed.), “Danske malede Portrætter”, vol VII, 1900, 1, p. 78.
Nathanson came from a background of few means in Altona and had almost no education before he arrived in Copenhagen with the help of his grandmother. However, he was very gifted and worked his way up to become a prominent businessman, an author writing about the national economy and editor of the Danish newspaper Berlingske Tidende in 1838. Already in 1798, he established himself as an independent draper and decided to deal directly with the manufacturers instead of with middlemen. He took up residence in England, where he learned about new business practices. During this stay he was presumably portrayed by James Northcote, a well-known portrait painter and pupil of Sir Joshua Reynolds.
His business experienced good times and bad, but he was always very community oriented. Among other projects, he founded the Free School for Boys of the Mosaic Faith in 1805 and in 1810 the Caroline School for Girls. He was probably the one person who did the most to get Jews integrated into Danish society. He welcomed into his home prominent writers and artists such as the poets Jens Baggesen and Henrik Hertz, the painters C.A. Lorentzen and C.W. Eckersberg and the composer F. Kuhlau, just to name a few.
In C.W. Eckersberg's famous large group portrait, "Det Nathansonske familiebillede” (The Nathanson Family) from 1818, Eckersberg portrays the married couple being greeted by their eight children after an audience with the King, that one at the National Gallery of Denmark (KMS1241).
Provenance: The family of the portrayed until today. The present owner is a descendant of the portrayed's daughter Bella, who was painted by C. W. Eckersberg with her sister Hanna in the living room with a bird cage in the iconic painting at the National Gallery of Denmark (inv. no. KMS3498).