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Oil painting of two Jewish clothes peddlers

Object | Accession Number: 2016.184.250

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    Oil painting of two Jewish clothes peddlers

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    Brief Narrative
    French oil painting depicting two clothes peddlers walking down a city street, painted around 1800. Peddlers were itinerant vendors who sold goods to the public. They usually traveled alone and carried their goods with them as they went. For example, clothes peddlers dealt specifically in garments. They bought used clothes, cleaned and repaired them, and then sold them for a profit. Peddling was a common occupation for young Jewish men during the 18th and 19th centuries. Most peddlers hoped their hard work would serve as a springboard to more lucrative and comfortable occupations. However, old prejudices formed an antisemitic stereotype of the Jewish peddler. The stereotype 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 limited Jews to the occupations of retail peddling, hawking, and moneylending. 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 peddler, an untrustworthy figure that sold cut-rate items at inflated prices. The painting is one of more than 900 items in the Katz Ehrenthal Collection of antisemitic artifacts and visual materials.
    Marchands d'habits
    creation:  approximately 1800-approximately 1830
    depiction: Bordeaux (Nouvelle-Aquitaine, France)
    creation: France
    Credit Line
    United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection, Gift of the Katz Family
    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

    Object Type
    Genre painting (lcsh)
    Oil Paintings.
    Physical Description
    Painting in oil on canvas depicting two clothes peddlers walking on a city street. The man on the right is carrying a large black bag in one hand, with colorful clothing draped over his other arm. He has curly brown hair, curled sidelocks, thick eyebrows, brown eyes, and a large nose. He wears a black hat, brown coat, light brown vest, red cravat, yellow pants, and black shoes. The man on the left is elderly and is looking down with a tired facial expression. He is holding a bundle of clothing and a pair of black boots. He has gray hair and a large nose and wears a black hat, green coat, gray stockings, and light brown and red shoes. The street is lined with tall buildings, with indistinct figures and a wagon on the street. In the background is a tall building with 3 towers and a large bell in the center. The sky is light blue with gray and white clouds. The painting is in a gilt wooden frame with an embossed floral design.
    overall: Height: 16.750 inches (42.545 cm) | Width: 13.375 inches (33.973 cm) | Depth: 1.875 inches (4.763 cm)
    pictorial area: Height: 12.125 inches (30.798 cm) | Width: 8.875 inches (22.543 cm)
    overall : canvas, oil paint

    Rights & Restrictions

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

    Keywords & Subjects

    Geographic Name

    Administrative Notes

    The painting 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:
    2022-07-28 18:12:44
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