Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Jamaica: Review in Forward of Painter of the Caribbean

Jamaica: Review in Forward of Painter of the Caribbean

In November I mentioned the publication of a lavish new book about Jamiaican Jewish artist Isaac Mendes Belisario.

Edward Gomez has reviewed the book for The Forward:

Painter of the Caribbean

In Colonial Jamaica, a Jewish Artist and the Slaves

Wed. Dec 31, 2008

Jewish families who trace their roots back to England, Spain, Portugal and beyond have distinguished themselves for generations as merchants and financiers in the Caribbean. Reminders of the contributions they have made to the varied cultures and societies of the region can be found in the graveyards and in postcolonial, national archives of what are now its many small, independent countries.

With this history in mind, Jamaica’s Mill Press has published “Belisario: Sketches of Character.” A large, lavishly illustrated volume that looks like a coffee-table art book, it is, in fact, a sweeping saga of overlapping family histories, a high-drama page-turner complete with a Central American property-sale scam (the offering of an entire, imaginary country, that is) that makes the Bernard Madoff and not-so-long-ago Enron frauds look, in its publisher’s words, “like child’s play.” Part biography and part cultural history, the book sets the stage for a look at the work of the 19th-century, Jewish-Jamaican artist Isaac Mendes Belisario (1794–1849), about whom little hitherto was known. Exquisitely produced by a small publishing company based in Kingston, Jamaica’s capital, it offers a vivid portrait of colonial-era Caribbean Jewry in general, and of merchant-class Jews in Jamaica in particular.

Read the full story here.

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