Great Exhibition catalogue 1851, Volume 11, page 852 - references to J. Seeley
This unusual and rare English scagliola tablet was executed at the height of the industrial revolution in the middle of the 19th century and it is probable that it was made for the Great Exhibition of 1851. The quality of execution and design suggest that it might have been one of the unlisted exhibits presented by firms such as the London-based J. Seeley and it would have been commissioned by a wealthy patron closely associated with the Great Exhibition, with the most likely contender being Sir Moses Haim Montefiore, 1st Baronet, Kt., F.R.S. (1784-1885). A financier, Jewish community leader and philanthropist, Montefiore was one of the twelve Jewish brokers in the City of London in 1803 and the founding president of the Alliance Assurance Company from 1824. In 1812, Montefiore married Judith, daughter of Levi Barent Cohen and sister-in-law of Nathan Mayer Rothschild - London financier and one of the founders of the international Rothschild family banking dynasty - subsequently becoming Rothschild's stockbroker.
Further evidence of the link between the present mizrach and Montefiore can be found in the scene depicted on the scagliola, the banner-holding Lion of Judah and stag, and the cedar of Lebanon, being all attributes featured on Montefiore's coat-of-arms. It is therefore most probable that the present scagliola would have been used by Montefiore as the mizrach for his private synagogue at East Cliff Lodge, Ramsgate.
A portrait of Sir Moses Montefiore executed by George Richmond, R.A. (1809-1896), and exhibited at the London Royal Academy in 1875 (no.290), was sold from the Royal & Sunalliance Collection, Christie's, London, 19 May 2005, lot 96, whilst a further portrait of Montefiore executed by Philip Muhe, was sold at Christie's, London 23 November 2005, lot 48.