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Wood panel painting of two Jewish men with fire sale sandwich boards

Object | Accession Number: 2016.184.290

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    Wood panel painting of two Jewish men with fire sale sandwich boards

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    Brief Narrative
    Painting on plywood of two Jewish men carrying sandwich boards advertising a fire sale at a Jewish clothing store. The men are depicted with several stereotypical physical features, including large noses and hooded eyes, and the man on the right is gesticulating in a manner often used to denote Jewish characters in Vaudeville performances. These caricatured portrayals of Jews on stage were known as “Jewface” and often included a large-nosed, bearded, figure speaking Yiddish or heavily-accented English while wearing old, shabby clothing, their bowler hats pulled low. The characters often gesticulated broadly with their open palms to mimic the stereotype that Jews spoke with their hands. The caricature became popular following the influx of Eastern European Jews immigrating to the United States in the late 1800s. The characters were often played by non-Jewish actors, but some Jewish performers, like Joe Welch, became quite well-known for their versions. Fire sales were used by merchants to recover something from a loss and to get rid of damaged goods at low prices. Cartoons suggesting that Jews staged fake or continuous fire sales were popular images in the casual antisemitism expressed in popular culture at the time. European Jews 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. As more Jewish immigrants arrived in the US in the late 19th century, they took up these “traditional trades” as peddlers and merchants and were met with antisemitic attitudes similar to those in Europe. This painting is one of 900 items in the Katz Ehrenthal Collection of antisemitic artifacts and visual materials.
    creation:  approximately 1900
    creation: United States
    Credit Line
    United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection, Gift of the Katz Family
    front, left sign, black paint : Big Blaze! / at / M. Costellovitch the Clothier!! / Goods slightly dam- / aged the same as / Given Away!!! / Big Sacrifice / to the Public!
    front, right sign, black paint : Blaze sale / Coats, Vests, And / Pantaloons, Zocks / neckties, Sus- / penders – shirts / 1 Lot Shirrs / 29 ¢ / Those will not last / long at that price / Come & See! / Fire! Blaz - / es!
    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
    Painting with a penciled and etched outline on a varnished plywood panel. The image depicts two men standing side-by-side wearing rectangular, red, sandwich board-style signs bearing English text that mimics a heavy accent. Each sign advertises low priced clothing and hangs from a neck strap and covers their torsos front and back. The men both have stereotypical Jewish features: prominent hooked noses, thick eyebrows, and hooded eyes. They wear black bowler hats pulled low, stained and wrinkled brown jackets and trousers, and worn shoes. The man on the left has a pinky ring and grips the sign’s sides with both hands while looking at the other man with crossed eyes. On the right, the second man has a beard and faces the first man, his head in right profile. The bearded man’s mouth is open as he gesticulates with both hands. His flat palms are open, facing outwards, with his right hand raised above his head and his left at his hip. The panel has an inlaid, dark brown wooden border, with some losses in the upper left corner.
    overall: Height: 17.875 inches (45.403 cm) | Width: 11.875 inches (30.163 cm)
    overall : wood, paint, varnish stain, pencil
    back, pencil : NO. 267A

    Rights & Restrictions

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

    Keywords & Subjects

    Geographic Name
    United States.

    Administrative Notes

    The painted wood panel 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:
    2023-07-06 09:38:22
    This page:

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