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Oil painting on ivory of a turbaned Sephardic Jew counting money

Object | Accession Number: 2016.184.279

Oil painting of a Sephardic Jew, painted by 18th-century French artist, M. de Burman. The painting shows a Jewish man, wearing a turban and counting gold coins and other valuables. 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, known as Orientalism. Two of the most ubiquitous antisemitic myths are Jew’s flair for finance and Jewish greed for wealth. They were often depicted as images of Jews counting money or hoarding valuables. 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 the occupation of money lending. 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 painting is one of more than 900 items in the Katz Ehrenthal Collection of antisemitic artifacts and visual materials.

Artwork Title
Sephardic Jew in Turban Counting his Money
creation:  1700-1799
creation: France
Oil paintings.
Credit Line
United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection, Gift of the Katz Family
Record last modified: 2022-07-28 18:12:44
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