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Porcelain thimble in the shape of Fagin's head

Object | Accession Number: 2016.184.75

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    Porcelain thimble in the shape of Fagin's head


    Brief Narrative
    Porcelain thimble in the shape of a small bust, depicting the head of Fagin, a character from Charles Dickens’ novel, “Oliver Twist.” It was manufactured by Harmer Sculptures in Staffordshire, England, likely during the 1980s. Fagin is portrayed with a beard, sidelocks, a large nose, and thick eyebrows; all stereotypical physical features attributed to Jewish men. In “Oliver Twist,” Fagin is the villainous leader of a gang of children whom he has instructed in the ways of criminality. He attempts to corrupt the protagonist, Oliver, in the same manner. In the novel, Fagin is described in his first scene as hunched over a fire holding a toasting fork, imagery that reinforces the antisemitic stereotype of Jewish associations with the devil, due to its resemblance of a pitchfork. He is repeatedly referred to as “the Jew” in the book and also emphasized as a greedy, miserly, and cowardly character; all traits aligning with common antisemitic stereotypes. However, in a later edition of the novel, Dickens reduced his use of “the Jew,” substituting it for pronouns or other phrases. Even in this later version, Fagin is still repeatedly and negatively referred to as “the Jew,” and remains emblematic of multiple antisemitic canards. Later writings by Dickens portrayed Jews in a more positive light, however, the reprehensible Fagin is his most remembered Jewish character. This thimble is one of the more than 900 items in the Katz Ehrenthal Collection of antisemitic artifacts and visual materials.
    manufacture:  1989
    manufacture: Staffordshire (England)
    Credit Line
    United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection, Gift of the Katz Family
    back, stamped, black ink : FAGIN
    inside wall, stamped, black ink : Harmer / Sculptures / STAFFORDSHIRE / MADE IN / ENGLAND / FINE PORCELAIN
    Compiler: Peter Ehrenthal
    Manufacturer: Harmer Sculptures
    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
    Thimbles (lcsh)
    Physical Description
    Porcelain thimble shaped as the head of Fagin. He has a long, gray beard and sidelocks, a large hooked nose, and thick eyebrows. He is wearing a black skullcap with a long tuft of hair running down his forehead. In the back, his long hair extends from beneath the skullcap’s lower edge. He has a large, green collar covering his neck. At the back bottom of his collar the figure’s name is stamped in black. The underside of the thimble is open and reveals the hollow interior. The manufacturer’s information is stamped on the right side of the interior. The paint has worn away from the surface in several spots, especially on his cheeks, collar edge, and skullcap, possibly from use.
    overall: Height: 1.375 inches (3.493 cm) | Diameter: 1.000 inches (2.54 cm)
    overall : porcelain, paint, ink

    Rights & Restrictions

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

    Keywords & Subjects

    Geographic Name
    Staffordshire (England)

    Administrative Notes

    The thimble 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:
    2024-02-21 07:11:15
    This page:

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