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Painted bronze figurine of a Sephardic Jewish money changer

Object | Accession Number: 2016.184.150

Vienna bronze figurine of a Jewish money changer made in the 19th century. He is dressed in a thawb (robe) and a turban, which gives him the Middle Eastern appearance of a Sephardic Jew. Vienna bronzes are bronze sculptures made in a Viennese handcraft tradition that incorporates artistic finishes. The style began in Austria in approximately 1850. Sephardic Jews are the descendants of the 200,000 Jews who were expelled from Spain in 1492, during the Spanish Inquisition. Many Sephardi escaped to Turkey, where they were free to practice their religion and participate in commerce. Consequently, many depictions of Sephardi have exaggerated exotic, Eastern motifs. Many antisemitic depictions of Jews show them hoarding, counting, or handling money. These stereotypes originated from the economic and professional restrictions placed on early European Jews. They were barred from owning land, farming, joining trade guilds, and military service. These restrictions forced many Jews into occupations such as money changing (exchanging foreign coins or currency for those used locally). Additionally, medieval religious belief held that charging interest (known as usury) was sinful, and the Jews who occupied these professions were looked down upon, predominantly by European Christians. They were perceived as morally deficient and willing to engage in unethical business practices. The inability of Jews to legally hold other occupations, combined with Christians’ disdain for the professions Jews were allowed to practice, helped form the canard of the greedy Jew who exploited Gentiles. This canard was often visually depicted as a Jewish man expressing an exaggerated desire for, or counting money. The figurine is one of more than 900 items in the Katz Ehrenthal Collection of antisemitic artifacts and visual materials.

manufacture:  approximately 1850-1899
manufacture: Vienna (Austria)
Decorative Arts
Credit Line
United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection, Gift of the Katz Family
Record last modified: 2022-07-28 18:12:38
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