(photo credit: )
A rather forbidding and austerely no-nonsense half-length portrait of Sir Moses Montefiore (1784-1885), painted by Philip Muhe probably after 1870, is being offered at Christie's sale of British art next Wednesday, November 23. It has a modest estimate of 8,000- 12,000.
Muhe was probably a German painter, but not even Christie's could tell us anything about him.
Montefiore was formerly a household name here and visited Jerusalem seven times, once after an epic coach trip all the way from London (the coach is still on view at the old flour mill of Yemin Moshe, the Jerusalem quarter established in his name). The keenly humanist Jewish philanthropist was the founder of Mishkenot Sha'ananim, the first Jewish housing project built outside the city walls.
My cousin, the late Avraham Kirshenbaum, was born in Mishkenot and was killed before the end of the British Mandate in 1948 while using an illegally-held Bren light machine-gun to cover the evacuation of Mishkenot and Yemin Moshe.
London-born Montefiore made his fortune in insurance by the time he was 40, and thereafter devoted himself to public service and to improving the lot of Jews everywhere. In 1840, he visited Sultan Mehmet Ali in an effort to have Jews placed on the same footing as other foreigners living in the Ottoman empire; he also made other diplomatic trips to Morocco, Rome and Russia. In 1837, he was elected Sheriff of London and knighted by Queen Victoria.
Montefiore was created a baronet in 1846, and in 1847, became Sheriff of Kent. His 100th birthday was marked by Jews worldwide. It is possible that there will be spirited bidding for his likeness.