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Miniature Portrait of Abigail Lopez Gomez
American, circa 1790
Watercolor on ivory, gold case
Height 2 inches
Courtesy of Elle Shushan/Augustus Decorative Arts, Limited

When Abigail Lopez was born in 1771, her father, Aaron Lopez, was undoubtedly the richest man in Newport, Rhode Island. Known as the “Merchant Prince,” Lopez owned thirty ships with cargo including molasses, rum, and slaves. He was a pillar of the large and powerful Jewish community of Newport and a founder of the Redwood Library and Touro Synagogue (his son would marry Isaac Touro’s daughter). For his daughter Abigail, Aaron Lopez would look further, choosing Isaac Gomez, a member of the largest and most influential Jewish family in New York. They married on May 26, 1790, joining two immensely wealthy and important Sephardic families.

By the time Hannah London published Miniatures and Silhouettes of Early American Jews in the 1950s, Abigail was all but forgotten. Her miniature, probably a wedding portrait, had descended to Florence Dreyfous of New York, who knew her only as “Miss Gomez,” an ancestor. That was the only caption for the sweet face published in London’s book.

Eventually, the miniature moved on to another distant relation in England. Having no real attachment to the miniature, which they called “Miss Lopez,” she was consigned in 1999 to Christie’s, South Kensington, in London, where she was pictured in the catalogue on a page among many other miniatures.

With the help of the New England Historic Genealogical Society’s Editorial Director D. Brenton Simons and working backwards from Florence Dreyfous, Abigail Lopez Gomez finally has her full name and identity back for the first time in almost a century.

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