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Cast brass figure of a Jew holding an ashtray

Object | Accession Number: 2016.184.46

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    Cast brass figure of a Jew holding an ashtray


    Brief Narrative
    Antisemitic ashtray modeled as Jewish man holding a large tray in is arms. The man has a large nose, a long beard, sidelocks, and thick eyebrows; all stereotypical physical features commonly attributed to Jewish men. The figure may be a representation of a Jewish peddler. Peddlers, often depicted carrying trays, were itinerant vendors who traveled the countryside and sold goods to the public. They usually traveled alone and carried their goods with them as they went. Peddling was a common occupation for young Jewish men during the 18th and 19th centuries. Most peddlers hoped their hard work would serve as a springboard to more lucrative and comfortable occupations. However, old prejudices formed an antisemitic stereotype of the Jewish peddler. The stereotype originated from the economic and professional restrictions placed on early European Jews. They were barred from owning land, farming, joining trade guilds, and military service. These restrictions limited Jews to the occupations of retail peddling, hawking, and moneylending. Additionally, medieval religious belief held that charging interest (known as usury) was sinful, and the Jews who occupied these professions were looked down upon, predominantly by European Christians. They were perceived as morally deficient and willing to engage in unethical business practices. The inability of Jews to legally hold other occupations, combined with Christians’ disdain for the professions Jews were allowed to practice, helped form the canard of the greedy Jew who exploited Gentiles. This canard was often visually depicted as a Jewish peddler, an untrustworthy figure that sold cut-rate items at inflated prices. This ashtray is one of the more than 900 items in the Katz Ehrenthal Collection of antisemitic artifacts and visual materials.
    creation:  1800-1899
    creation: Europe
    Credit Line
    United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection, Gift of the Katz Family
    Compiler: Peter Ehrenthal
    The Katz Ehrenthal Collection is a collection of more than 900 objects depicting Jews and antisemitic and anti-Jewish propaganda from the medieval to the modern era, in Europe, Russia, and the United States. The collection was amassed by Peter Ehrenthal, a Romanian Holocaust survivor, to document the pervasive history of anti-Jewish hatred in Western art, politics and popular culture. It includes crude folk art as well as pieces created by Europe's finest craftsmen, prints and periodical illustrations, posters, paintings, decorative art, and toys and everyday household items decorated with depictions of stereotypical Jewish figures.

    Physical Details

    Object Type
    Ashtrays (lcsh)
    Physical Description
    Large, shallow, circular, brass ashtray held in the arms of a Jewish man soldered to the top edge. Only the upper half of the man is depicted, and he has a long beard, a prominent nose, thick eyebrows, and sidelocks. His head is tilted to the side and his arms are outstretched along the upper edge of the tray, with his hands on the top edge. He wears a bucket-shaped hat and a wrinkled, form-fitting, collared jacket. A partially visible, rectangular object with a stamped image is tucked into his breast pocket. On the reverse side is a small, rectangular leg is affixed to the center of the man’s back to enable the tray to sit level. The ashtray is scratched and slightly dented, with several small areas of discoloration throughout.
    overall: Height: 1.250 inches (3.175 cm) | Width: 4.750 inches (12.065 cm) | Depth: 6.375 inches (16.192 cm)
    overall : brass

    Rights & Restrictions

    Conditions on Access
    No restrictions on access
    Conditions on Use
    No restrictions on use

    Keywords & Subjects

    Geographic Name

    Administrative Notes

    The ashtray was donated to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in 2016 by the Katz Family.
    Funding Note
    The cataloging of this artifact has been supported by a grant from the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany.
    Special Collection
    Katz Ehrenthal Collection
    Record last modified:
    2022-07-28 18:12:35
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