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Porcelain figure of Shylock, richly dressed and carrying a dagger

Object | Accession Number: 2016.184.13

Colorful, 19th century, English porcelain figurine of Shylock, the antagonist from Shakespeare's play, The Merchant of Venice. He has a large nose, side curls, and a long beard; all stereotypical physical features attributed to Jewish men. Jews were expelled from England in 1290, making it unlikely that Shakespeare ever met a Jewish person, and he likely based Shylock on long-standing antisemitic stereotypes. In the play, Shylock is a Jewish moneylender who demands a pound of flesh as recompense from a merchant who failed to repay a loan. Although some scenes make him a sympathetic character, and show how society and his Christian enemies cruelly mistreat him, in the end, he is punished and forced to convert to Christianity. The play was extremely popular in Nazi Germany, with fifty productions between 1933 and 1939. The Ministry of Propaganda created edited versions of the play that removed scenes and lines that evoked sympathy for Shylock or Jews. The Nazis used Shylock to promote Jewish inferiority by making him emblematic of the Jewish race’s perceived wickedness. These versions ignored the ambiguity Shylock was originally infused with, and portrayed him as an avaricious and vengeful character that was grotesque and inhuman. Despite the stereotypical and anti-Jewish elements, the play remains popular and continues to spark debates over whether it should be considered antisemitic. This figurine is one of more than 900 items in the Katz Ehrenthal Collection of antisemitic artifacts and visual materials.

Date
creation:  1800-1899
Geography
creation: England
Classification
Decorative Arts
Category
Ceramics
Genre/Form
Figurines.
Credit Line
United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection, Gift of the Katz Family
 
Record last modified: 2021-04-26 10:51:23
This page: https://collections.ushmm.org/search/catalog/irn537069