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Adolphe Crémieux

Jules Jean Antoine Lecomte du Noüy (Paris, 1842 – Paris, 1923)

Paris, 1878

Oil on canvas, 121 x 120 cm

On permanent loan from the musée d’Orsay, Paris

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Adolphe Crémieux

Jean Jules Antoine Lecomte du Noüy (Paris, 1842 – Paris, 1923), Portrait d'Adolphe Crémieux, Paris, 1878. Huile sur toile, 121 x 120 cm

Dépôt du musée d’Orsay, Paris

The lawyer and politician Isaac Adolphe Crémieux (Nîmes, 1796 – Paris, 1880) campaigned incessantly for the emancipation of his coreligionists, for the equality of all citizens and against slavery. From 1827 to 1846, he fought for the abolition of the Oath More Judaico imposed on Jews in the courts. In 1840, with the English philanthropist Moses Montefiore, he was instrumental in freeing Jews in Damascus accused of ritual murder. He was elected president of the Israelite Central Consistory of France in 1843 and in 1864 became president of the Alliance Israélite Universelle, an organisation created in Paris in 1860 to defend Jewish minorities persecuted worldwide and promote their emancipation through education. In parallel, he pursued his brilliant political career: as a deputy in 1842, as justice minister of the Provisional Government of 1848, then, after the fall of the Second Empire, as justice minister for the Government of National Defence in 1870. On 24 October 1870 he passed nine decrees giving Algeria, a French colony since 1834, a new constitution. The seventh of these decrees, known as the “Crémieux Decree” secured full citizenship for the thirty-five thousand Jews in Algeria. This decree was repealed by the Vichy government in October 1940. He was elected life senator in 1875.

Jules Jean Antoine Lecomte du Noüy was an Orientalist painter. Born into a traditional Catholic family, in 1876 he married Valentine Peigné-Crémieux (1855-1876), Adolphe Crémieux’s granddaughter. She died the same year but the artist maintained his links with the Crémieux family. Here he shows Crémieux at work, pen in hand, arm resting on a pile of papers and with a wastepaper basket overflowing with crossed out writings. The year before he painted this portrait, Lecomte du Noüy travelled to Morocco, where his meetings with the local Jewish community inspired several later works.

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