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Colorful Fagin fireplace tool holder with poker and tongs

Object | Accession Number: 2016.184.72 a-c

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    Colorful Fagin fireplace tool holder with poker and tongs

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    Brief Narrative
    Cast iron fireplace tool holder with poker and tongs in the shape of Fagin, a Jewish criminal from the novel, Oliver Twist, by Charles Dickens, 1837-39. The tongs resemble a trident, referencing the toasting fork Fagin uses in the novel. He is described as devil-like and is often portrayed with a trident shaped toasting fork to emphasize this connection. His characterization is antisemitic and exploits many negative stereotypes. Referred to as The Jew, Fagin is introduced as "villainous and repulsive." His nails are black, his few teeth are fangs, he is greedy, vicious, and kidnaps small children to make them thieves. Dickens rationalized it by saying that if he had a character who was a fence for stolen goods, he had to be a Jew because "that class of criminal almost invariably was a Jew." Many adaptations try to sidestep the complications of Fagin's ethnic identity, and make him more of a comic figure, but the unpleasant Jewish stereotypes are central to his depiction. This fireset is one of the more than 900 items in the Katz Ehrenthal Collection of antisemitic artifacts and visual materials.
    manufacture:  approximately 1934-approximately 1936
    manufacture: England
    Credit Line
    United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection, Gift of the Katz Family
    a. back, center, engraved : Fagin from / Oliver Twist
    a. back, center, embossed : MADE IN / ENGLAND
    a. back, center, engraved : B 415 / RD / 798008
    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

    Tools and Equipment
    Object Type
    Firesets (aat)
    Physical Description
    a. Heavy, cast iron, fireplace tool stand in the shape of a devious looking man, Fagin, painted mostly bronze except for the clothing. The figure stands with the left leg forward, knee bent, and turned slightly right. His right arm is held on his side, and the bent left arm is across his waist, hand curled into a fist with a central hole, to hold the poker (b.) He has caricatured Jewish features: bushy eyebrows over deepset hooded eyes, long hair and a full beard, and a large hooked nose. His fleshy lips form a sinister grin. He wears a dark green head wrap, a green, ankle-length jacket with a dark red handkerchief in the pocket, a dark red scarf and vest, gold breeches, and black slippers. A 4 pronged, hanging bracket is screwed to the back. The figure is screwed to a hollow, stepped, oval base.
    b. Bronze painted, cast iron poker shaped like toasting fork / trident with a flat, 3 tined head soldered to the top of a long, tubular handle that slides into the left hand of the tool stand (a.) The paint is worn.
    c. Gold painted, black cast iron tongs with 2 elongated loop handles that join at a central pivot point and then extend into 2 inward curving arms with flattened triangular tips with textured inner surfaces. The tongs hang on a bracket on the back of tool stand (a.) The paint on the arms is worn.
    a: Height: 14.625 inches (37.148 cm) | Width: 7.375 inches (18.733 cm) | Depth: 5.625 inches (14.287 cm)
    b: Height: 12.652 inches (32.136 cm) | Width: 2.125 inches (5.398 cm) | Depth: 0.250 inches (0.635 cm)
    c: Height: 9.375 inches (23.813 cm) | Width: 2.625 inches (6.668 cm) | Depth: 0.750 inches (1.905 cm)
    a : cast iron, paint
    b : cast iron, paint
    c : cast iron, paint

    Rights & Restrictions

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

    Keywords & Subjects

    Administrative Notes

    The fireset 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 18:30:18
    This page:

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