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Culture and Costume

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Engraved and etched by Henri Bonnart
From Recueil d'estampes de Costume du XVIIe Siecle
Paris, ca. 1680

Henri Bonnart was part of a family of engravers in Paris known for publishing portraits of the French nobility wearing the latest fashions. This print of Juif de la Terre Sainte adheres to the style of costume illustration popularized in the last quarter of the seventeenth century by Bonnart and other contemporary engravers. The Jewish doctor that Bonnart portrays has acquired riches from selling doses of rhubarb. While known today as a plant for making pies, rhubarb roots have medicinal properties and rhubarb sellers appear in prints of the seventeenth through the nineteenth centuries.

The image of the Jewish doctor from the Ottoman Empire wearing the distinguishing clothing of his profession first appears in the sixteenth century. Nicolas de Nicolay, in Les quatre premiers livres des Navigation et peregrinations orientales (1567) includes a portrait of Moses Hamon, a renowned Jewish doctor at the court of Suleiman the Magnificent. Nicolay states that Hamon wore a tall red cap. Various travelers to the East noted that other Jews often mimicked the style of dress worn by Jewish doctors. Eugene Roger, a seventeenth-century French missionary, recorded his travel observations in La terre sainte (1646) and included an etching of Juif de la Terre Sainte on which Bonnart based his print. The figures in both prints have the same facial features and stand in related poses; each wears a tall cap and robes trimmed and lined with ermine.

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