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Abraham Furtado


France, first half of the 19th century

Oil on canvas, 33 x 24.8 cm

Gift of Marie-Claude Hayman, in memory of her mother Odette Fabius

Portrait d'Abraham Furtado

Anonyme, Abraham Furtado, France début du XIXe siècle

Huile sur toile, 33 x 24,8 cm. Don de Marie-Claude Hayman, en souvenir de sa mère Odette Fabius

The merchant and businessman Abraham Furtado (London, 1756 – Bordeaux, 1817) was born into a family of Portuguese Marrano descent that left Lisbon after the earthquake in 1755 and reconverted to Judaism in London. He spent his childhood in Bayonne then settled in Bordeaux after his marriage. In 1788 he was summoned by Malesherbes, Louis XVI’s advisor, to sit on the commission charged with reflecting on improving the conditions of the Jews in France, where he defended the specific interests of the Jews in southwestern France, much better integrated than their counterparts in the east. Due to his close ties with the Girondins he was exiled in 1793 during the Terror. Under the Empire he was chosen to represent the Gironde at the Assembly of Notables, convened by Napoleon in 1806 to advise on the compatibility of Jewish Law with the values of the French nation, which he chaired. This assembly was a preliminary to the decrees in 1808 organising Jewish worship. The following year he became secretary of the Grand Sanhedrin, the new assembly of seventy-one rabbis and laymen created by the emperor to define the religious consequences of the decisions of the Assembly of Notables, and whose name explicitly refers to the high court that sat until the 3rd century.

A member of Bordeaux’s city council from 1790, he joined the royalist camp after the fall of the Empire. He was appointed deputy mayor of Bordeaux by Louis XVIII and remained so until he died in 1817. In this portrait painted at the beginning of the 19th century, there are no apparent signs of his Jewishness.

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