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Jessica

1880 Moses Ezekiel Born: Richmond, Virginia 1844 Died: Rome, Italy 1917 marble 29 5/8 x 16 3/8 x 16 1/2 in. (75.3 x 41.6 x 41.9 cm) Smithsonian American Art Museum Museum purchase made possible by Jack and Marjorie Rachlin 1994.60 Smithsonian American Art Museum
2nd Floor, East Wing


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In Shakespeare’s play The Merchant of Venice, Jessica is the daughter of Shylock, a Jew who lends money to a Christian merchant, Antonio. The plot thickens when Antonio fails to repay Shylock, and the moneylender is ruined. This drama may have appealed to Moses Ezekiel because of its sympathetic portrayal of Jews. As an American Jew living in Italy, Ezekiel may have identified with Shylock, who was forbidden citizenship in Venice because of his faith. Ezekiel’s Jessica turns her head as if to say, “I am never merry when I hear sweet music,” a line from the play that the sculptor inscribed on the base of the bust.

Keywords

Figure female - bust

Portrait female - unidentified - Jessica

sculpture

stone - marble

carved