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Painted ceramic wall plaque of a grinning Fagin

Object | Accession Number: 2016.184.94

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    Painted ceramic wall plaque of a grinning Fagin

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    Brief Narrative
    Oval-shaped wall plaque with a relief image of Fagin, a character from the Charles Dickens’ novel, “Oliver Twist,” possibly from the early 20th century. On the plaque, Fagin is portrayed with a beard, sidelocks, hooded eyes, thick eyebrows, and a large nose; all stereotypical physical features attributed to Jewish men. His mouth and beard are painted a crimson red, resembling blood, possibly to represent blood libel, antisemitic allegations that accused Jews of murdering Christian children to consume their blood. 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 plaque is one of the more than 900 items in the Katz Ehrenthal Collection of antisemitic artifacts and visual materials.
    Credit Line
    United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection, Gift of the Katz Family
    front, bottom, painted, brown paint : FAGIN
    back, bottom, etched : COPYRIGHT / TERRY NOTTM
    front, left side, collar, impressed : TERRY
    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
    Physical Description
    Oval-shaped, painted wall plaque with a relief image of a man’s face. The man has a long, gray beard with sidelocks, hooded eyes, a large nose, and thick eyebrows. His eyes are glancing toward his right, and his mouth is curved into a thin smile. The end of his nose is painted red, and his lips are stained in a crimson red with red splotches down his beard. A large, brown, coat collar frames his face. The plaque has a cream colored, dimpled surface with a brown border. The character’s name is painted at the bottom, and the artist’s signature is pressed into the left side collar. The back is unpainted white with several small air holes and rough areas on the surface. There is an inverted, U-shaped metal hook near the top. Two lines of text are etched on the surface near the bottom.
    overall: Height: 6.000 inches (15.24 cm) | Width: 4.125 inches (10.477 cm) | Depth: 1.500 inches (3.81 cm)
    overall : ceramic, metal, paint

    Rights & Restrictions

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

    Keywords & Subjects

    Administrative Notes

    The plaque 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
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