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Bartholdy, Jacob

BARTHOLDY, JACOB

BARTHOLDY, JACOB (1779–1825), Prussian diplomat and art connoisseur. Born in Berlin into a prosperous Jewish family as Jacob Salomon, he was an uncle of the composer Felix Mendelssohn. He converted in 1805 and adopted the family name Bartholdy from a rented estate near Berlin. He was one of the group of gifted apostate Jews whose services were enlisted by von Hardenberg, the Prussian chancellor. Bartholdy studied law and philosophy, traveled extensively in Western Europe before becoming an officer in the Austrian army in the 1809 war against France. After entering the Prussian diplomatic service, he was appointed Prussian consul-general in Rome and took part in the conference of Aix-la-Chapelle (1818). In the same year he became Prussian chargé d'affaires at the court of Tuscany with the title of privy councillor of legation.

Bartholdy was an enthusiastic art patron and his home was decorated with frescoes by the Nazarenes, a group of contemporary German artists devoted to the revival of Christian art. After his death, the murals were bought by the Prussian government who also acquired his important collection of Etruscan vases, bronze, and ivory.

add bibliography:

C. Lambour, "Quellen zur Biographie von Fanny Hensel, geb. Mendelssohn Bartholdy," in: G. Klein and R. Elvers (eds.), Mendelssohn-Studien, vol. 6. (1986), 49–105.

[Ernest Hamburger]

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