Born on 27 June 1826 in Hamburg, the son of a rabbi. He studied in Munich and Antwerp, and in Paris c1843-6 under Delaroche and C. Gleyre. His earlier work included elaborate history pieces, such as Luca Signorelli with his Dead Son (1859;Hamburg).
He worked in Rome 1854-5, 1861-2, 1863-4 and 1871-5, becoming well known for Roman genre scenes involving Cardinals. His later work included a number of outdoor Parisian genre subjects. He exhibited in the Salon 1852-70 and 1881-7 and was made chevalier of the Legion of Honour in 1861 and officier in 1881.
During the siege of Paris and the Commune he stayed in London, exhibiting at the Royal Academy in 1871. He became a French citizen in 1878 and died in Paris on 19 November 1889.