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Bossons chalkware wall decoration of Fagin's head

Object | Accession Number: 2016.184.92

Chalkware wall decoration in the shape of a small bust depicting the head of Fagin, a character from Charles Dickens’ novel, “Oliver Twist.” It was designed by Fred Wright and manufactured by W.H. Bossons Ltd. in Congleton, England, between 1964 and 1988. The company manufactured ceramic and plaster goods from 1948 until 1996. Fagin is portrayed with a beard, red hair, and a large nose; 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. This imagery reinforces the antisemitic stereotype of Jewish associations with the devil, due to the toasting fork’s 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 wall decoration is one of the more than 900 items in the Katz Ehrenthal Collection of antisemitic artifacts and visual materials.

creation:  1964-1988
manufacture: Congleton (England)
Decorative Arts
Object Type
Novelties (lcsh)
Credit Line
United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection, Gift of the Katz Family
Record last modified: 2023-01-31 14:16:48
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