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Albertine Mendelssohn-Bartholdy
as a bride

painting of an elegant woman in an ornate gold frame

She stands like the Madonna in a painting of the annunciation, her ring raised to her heart, resplendent in a white dress, with bridal myrtle in her hair and a humble downward gaze. The date on the frame is May 27, 1835—the day on which Albertine Heine (1814–1879) and Paul Mendelssohn-Bartholdy (1812–1874) were married. Like her husband, Albertine came from a Jewish family. However, her parents were no longer religious and had their children baptized for pragmatic reasons: they wanted to spare them the hostility and social restrictions to which they themselves were subject.

Albertine’s bridal painting, done by a student of her brother-in-law, the acclaimed painter Wilhelm Hensel, has an air of ambivalence despite all the allusions to Christian painting traditions. The frame resembles an altarpiece, individual details allude to traditional representations of the annunciation, and a church figures prominently in the background, but religion is not the subject of this artwork. The church is the Marienkirche in Berlin, which was visible from the home of Albertine’s parents. Furthermore, Albertine is adorned not only with lilies, the flower of innocence, but also with lilies of the valley, traditional messengers of love. This bride is no Madonna. In the guise of a religious painting, the viewer discovers nothing more and nothing less than a celebration of personal happiness.

Object details:
Albertine Mendelssohn-Bartholdy as a bride
August Theodor Kaselowsky (1810–1890)
Oil on canvas
113 x 81.5 cm

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