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Brass horse medallion with Fagin touching his finger to his nose

Object | Accession Number: 2016.184.91

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
Decorative Arts
Object Type
Horse brasses (lcsh)
Credit Line
United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection, Gift of the Katz Family
Record last modified: 2022-07-28 18:12:37
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