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The Plesch Family Portrait

The family picture on the first floor of the Plesch family house on Budapester Straße, Berlin, ca. 1930
© Jewish Museum Berlin, gift of Janos and Melanie Plesch Gedenk-Schenkung von Prof. Dr. Peter H. Plesch

The most significant acquisition for the Jewish Museum Berlin art collection in the year 2005 was the Plesch family portrait painted by Max Slevogt in 1928.

Janos Plesch was a renowned doctor who left Budapest to settle in Berlin in 1903. He and his wife Melanie, née Gans and descended from the founding family of the Cassella paint manufacturer, had three children: Andreas Odilo, depicted on his mother's lap, Dagmar Honoria and Peter Hariolf, who left his parents’ extensive estate to the Museum in 1986.
Max Slevogt (1868-1932) – German Impressionism’s most important figure alongside Max Liebermann and Lovis Corinth – had been friends with Janos Plesch for many years. The artist painted his doctor as an elegant gentleman in an upright format in 1923, followed by paintings for loggia and garden pavilion and then in 1928 the family portrait, which hung in the first-floor hall leading to the family’s private rooms.

Though Slevogt's composition follows the family-portrait tradition of the Biedermeier period, the painter achieved a synthesis between familial intimacy and the representative character of a group portrait seen only rarely in modern family portraits. The success of the portrait lies perhaps in the fact that it grew out of a long friendship between artist and commissioner based on mutual trust and similar values.

Object Details:
Max Slevogt
Plesch family portrait
Berlin 1928
Oil on canvas
Measurements: 105 x 135.4 cm

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