Prussian diplomat and art patron; uncle of the composer Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy; born May 13, 1779, in Berlin; died in the Protestant faith July 27, 1825, in Rome. He was of a prosperous Jewish family, and received a careful education. After attending the University of Halle for some time, he made a tour through Greece with the artist Gropius. From Greece he brought home the manuscript of an unfinished book, the first part of which was published in 1805 under the title "Bruchstücke zur Näheren Kenntniss des Heutigen Griechenlands," Berlin; a French translation appeared in Paris in1807. He traveled extensively in Italy and in Asia Minor; but Holland and France likewise attracted him, and he spent much of his time in Paris. In Dresden he became an intimate friend and admirer of the noted pastor Reinhard, by whom he was converted to Protestantism in 1805.

As first lieutenant of the Vienna militia, Bartholdy took an active part in the campaign of 1809 against Napoleon, distinguishing himself especially in the battle of Ebersberg, where he was severely wounded. In 1813, while attached to the bureau of Prince von Hardenberg, he accompanied the allied armies to Paris, and went thence to London. On the latter journey he met Cardinal Consalvi, with whom he formed a lasting friendship, and whose life he afterward described in his book, "Züge aus dem Leben des Cardinals Hercules Consalvi," Stuttgart, 1824.

In 1815 Bartholdy received the appointment of Prussian consul-general to Italy and established himself in Rome. While he strongly opposed the policy of the eminent historian Niebuhr, then Prussian ambassador at the papal court—a policy which to him seemed weak and unnecessarily lenient toward the Holy See—he gave his firm support to Cardinal Consalvi and the Romanists at the Vienna Congress. After the Congress of Aix-la-Chapelle, 1818, he was appointed Prussian business representative, with the title of privy councilor of legation, at the court of Tuscany. In 1825 he was pensioned by the Prussian government.

Bartholdy is the author of the following works, in addition to those mentioned above: "Der Krieg der Tyroler Landleute im Jahre 1809" (1814), and an unfinished work (in manuscript) on ancient glass and glass materials.

An enthusiastic patron of art, great credit is due to Bartholdy for giving a fresh impulse to the revival of fresco-painting. He engaged four German artists—Cornelius, Overbeck, Schadow, and Veit—to adorn his house with frescos, the well-known Casa Bartholdy, or Casa Zuccari, in the Via Sistina in Rome. In 1887 the house was torn down, and the famous frescos representing the story of Joseph were bought by the Prussian government and transferred to the National Gallery in Berlin (Donop, "Die Wandgemälde der Casa Bartholdy," Berlin, 1889). The Museum of Berlin bought Bartholdy's important collection of antiques, comprising Etruscan vases, bronzes, ivories, majolicas, etc., which are now displayed in the National Gallery.

  • Brockhaus, Konversations-Lexikon, 14th ed., s.v.;
  • Meyer, Konversations-Lexikon, 5th ed.;
  • Allgemeine Deutsche Biographie;
  • Hoefer, Nouvelle Biographie Universelle.
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