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White porcelain match holder depicting a stereotypical Jewish peddler

Object | Accession Number: 2016.184.589.1

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    White porcelain match holder depicting a stereotypical Jewish peddler

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    Brief Narrative
    Decorative porcelain match holder shaped as a Jewish peddler carrying a large, empty basket on his back. The man has several stereotypical physical features commonly attributed to Jewish men: a large nose, fleshy lips, and red hair. Peddlers were itinerant vendors who sold goods to the public. Peddling was a common occupation for young Jewish men during the 18th and 19th centuries. However, old prejudices stemming from the economic and professional restrictions placed on early European Jews formed an antisemitic stereotype of the Jewish peddler. 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 depiction of wicked Jewish characters as redheads also has a long history. Some interpretations of the Bible describe Esau and David (King of Israel), as having red hair, and for many, red hair became a Jewish identifier, even though Jews are no more likely to have red hair than other groups. In medieval Europe, redheads were regarded as untrustworthy, and the Jewish literary villains Fagin and Shylock had red hair. This figurine is one of the 900 items in the Katz Ehrenthal Collection of antisemitic artifacts and visual materials.
    creation:  approximately 1800-1899
    creation: Europe
    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

    Decorative Arts
    Object Type
    Match holders (lcsh)
    Physical Description
    White, porcelain match holder depicting a man in a wrinkled top hat, a knee-length jacket with bright, light blue trim, and light blue trousers with matching shoes. The jacket has three, small, blue, buttons down the front. He has red-brown hair, curly sidelocks, a two-pointed beard, mustache, a large, curved nose, and small, red lips. His arms are raised out to almost shoulder height, with the elbows bent so his thumbs are tucked under shoulder straps and his hands pointed upward. He carries a tapered, woven basket with an open, square-shaped top and a hollow interior, for matches, suspended from blue straps that crisscross his chest and hang off his shoulders. Behind him, and below the sack, is a low, wide tree stump rising from the circular base he stands on. The low sides of the base have several raised bands around them and blue, painted stripes along the edges. There is likely a small hole for firing on the underside. There are small discolorations throughout and a yellowed substance along his right arm, possibly from a repair.
    overall: Height: 5.500 inches (13.97 cm) | Width: 2.125 inches (5.398 cm) | Depth: 2.500 inches (6.35 cm)
    overall : porcelain, glaze

    Rights & Restrictions

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

    Keywords & Subjects

    Geographic Name

    Administrative Notes

    The figurine 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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