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Book Notes: Belisario: Sketches of a Character: A Historical Biography of a Jamaican Artist, Jackie Ranston

Edgar Samuel

<plain_text><page sequence="1">Belisario: Sketches of a Character. A Historical Biography of a Jamaican Artist, Jackie Ranston (The Mill Press, Kingston, Jamaica 2008) isbn 978-9768168160, pp. 432, ?75. This is a lavishly illustrated and beautifully produced book about a interest? ing and productive artist. Isaac Mendes Belisario (1794-1849), best known in England for his painting and engraving of the Spanish and Portuguese Synagogue in Bevis Marks, was a major artist in Jamaica, where he was born and brought up, responsible for a wide-ranging and attractive output. The volume includes a full reproduction of Belisario's publication of 1837 and 244</page><page sequence="2">Book Notes 1838 of his: 'SKETCHES OF Character In Illustration of the Habits, Occupation, and Costume of the NEGRO POPULATION in the ISLAND OF JAMAICA, Drawn after Nature, and in Lithography'. This objective depiction of folklore history is full of valuable detail. Belisario also painted portraits of leading citizens and their estates and other Jamaican landscapes. The artist's grandfather, Rabbi Isaac Mendes Belisario (1719-91), after whom he was named, was one of the rubissim or teachers at Bevis Marks and a day an on the Sephardi Beth Din. His son Abraham (1768-1825) migrated to Jamaica in 1786 and was employed by Alexandre Lindo, a slave dealer and plantation owner. He married Alexandre's daughter in 1791 and their son Isaac was born in 1794. Jackie Ranson has previously written a history of the Lindo family in Jamaica, and makes good use of her research in this book, giving a detailed account of the artist's communal background and family connections, as well as of Sephardi history. This excellent biography ranges widely over the history of Jamaica and of the Portuguese Jewish community to which Belisario and his family belonged. It is scholarly, well researched and very readable. Edgar Samuel</page></plain_text>