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Brass horse medallion with Fagin touching his finger to his nose

Object | Accession Number: 2016.184.91

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    Brass horse medallion with Fagin touching his finger to his nose


    Brief Narrative
    Cast horse brass with an image of Fagin touching his finger to his nose. These medallions were popular decorations for the harnesses of working horses, especially in the mid-19th century. As horses ceased to be used for many tasks in the 20th century, the brasses were used as wall decorations and were popular souvenirs. Fagin is a devil-like Jewish criminal from the novel, Oliver Twist, by Charles Dickens, 1837-39. The novel's characterization is antisemitic and exploits many negative stereotypes. Referred to as The Jew, Fagin is villainous, greedy, and repulsive, with black nails, fanglike teeth, and he kidnaps small children to make them thieves. Dickens shared a common prejudice of the time, saying that if he had a character who was a fence, 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, or make him more of a comic figure, but his Jewishness is central to his depiction. This ornament is one of the more than 900 items in the Katz Ehrenthal Collection of antisemitic artifacts and visual materials.
    manufacture:  approximately 1920-1950
    manufacture: England
    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

    Decorative Arts
    Object Type
    Horse brasses (lcsh)
    Physical Description
    Cast brass ornament with a cut out, bas relief bust of a caricatured, unkempt man in three quarter profile in the center of a circular frame resembling a farm horse harness. The man wears a worn, wide brimmed hat and has stereotypical Jewish facial features: a very large, pointed nose, thick eyebrows over deepset, baggy eyes, and thick lips turned up in a conspiratorial grin. His hair, mustache, and beard are long stringy, and grooved. His right hand is near his chin with the fingers folded in, and he touches his nose with the extended index finger. The surrounding ring is smooth, with small notches on the outer edge near the wider bottom which is engraved FAGIN. At the top is a horizontal, elongated oval loop. The back shows the mold impression and has a dark red patina.
    overall: Height: 3.625 inches (9.208 cm) | Width: 3.125 inches (7.938 cm) | Depth: 0.250 inches (0.635 cm)
    overall : brass

    Rights & Restrictions

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

    Keywords & Subjects

    Administrative Notes

    The ornament 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 18:12:37
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