Decoration for the Eastern Wall (Mizrah)
Attributed to Samuel Bentz (1792-1850)
Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, circa 1810-1830
Ink and watercolor with gum Arabic on paper, 9 ¾ x 7 ½ inches, with a period black painted frame
This is considered to be the only known example of a Jewish fraktur of Pennsylvania-German origin known to exist.
This Mizrah represents a unique convergence of artistic, cultural, and religious traditions. With most of the Jewish populations in the United States during this period centered in large coastal cities, such as Newport, Philadelphia, Charleston, and Savannah, it was only in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, where a Jewish community coexisted within a center of well-established Germanic artistry where this watercolor Mizrah could have been commissioned from a well-known local fraktur artist such as Samuel Bentz. Lancaster is located in southeastern Pennsylvania about sixty miles west of Philadelphia and about seventy miles northeast of Baltimore, Maryland. Lancaster is the fourth oldest Jewish community in North America, only preceded by New York in 1654, Newport in 1677, and Philadelphia in 1703. This work has an ownership history in the Etting family of Pennsylvania and Maryland.