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Bossons chalkware wall decoration of Fagin's head

Object | Accession Number: 2016.184.92

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    Bossons chalkware wall decoration of Fagin's head

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    Brief Narrative
    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)
    Credit Line
    United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection, Gift of the Katz Family
    back, stamped and painted, black paint : BOSSONS / ENGLAND / WORLD COPYRIGHT / RESERVED
    back, stamped : [illegible text]
    left side, impressed : FAGIN / ©1964 BOSSONS ENGLAND
    Compiler: Peter Ehrenthal
    Artist: Fred Wright
    Manufacturer: W.H. Bossons Ltd.
    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
    Novelties (lcsh)
    Physical Description
    Small, painted wall decoration shaped as the head of Fagin. He has stringy, red-orange hair with matching sidelocks and beard, a large nose, and thick eyebrows. He is wearing a brown skullcap and has long strands of hair covering his receding hairline. His lips are pulled back in a toothy smile and he has wrinkles across his forehead and at the corners of his eyes. He has a large, green collar covering his neck. The character’s name and manufacturer’s name are impressed on his left side, below the collar. The back of the decoration is flat, and has a rectangular, metal, mounting hook near the top. The manufacturer’s information is stamped in black near the bottom. There are several small chips and paint losses throughout.
    overall: Height: 5.000 inches (12.7 cm) | Width: 3.500 inches (8.89 cm) | Depth: 2.500 inches (6.35 cm)
    overall : plaster, paint, ink, metal

    Rights & Restrictions

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

    Keywords & Subjects

    Geographic Name
    Congleton (England)

    Administrative Notes

    The bas-relief 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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