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Advertising poster for a theatrical production of Oliver Twist

Object | Accession Number: 2016.184.635

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    Advertising poster for a theatrical production of Oliver Twist

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    Brief Narrative
    Large, woodblock-printed advertising poster for a theatrical production of Charles Dickens’ “Oliver Twist,” printed by Calhoun Printing Company in Hartford, Connecticut. The poster features three images, all based on the illustrations by George Cruikshank, which were originally published in the novel’s serialized form between 1837 and 1839. On the poster, Fagin is portrayed with a beard, thick eyebrows and a large nose; all stereotypical physical features attributed to Jewish men. In “Oliver Twist,” Fagin is the villainous leader of a gang of children whom he has instructed in the ways of criminality. He attempts to corrupt the protagonist, Oliver, in the same manner. In the novel, Fagin is described in his first scene as hunched over a fire holding a toasting fork. This imagery reinforces the antisemitic stereotype of Jewish associations with the devil, due to the toasting fork’s resemblance of a pitchfork. He is repeatedly referred to as “the Jew” in the book and also emphasized as a greedy, miserly, and cowardly character; all traits aligning with common antisemitic stereotypes. However, in a later edition of the novel, Dickens reduced his use of “the Jew,” substituting it for pronouns or other phrases. Even in this later version, Fagin is still repeatedly and negatively referred to as “the Jew,” and remains emblematic of multiple antisemitic canards. Later writings by Dickens portrayed Jews in a more positive light, however, the reprehensible Fagin is his most remembered Jewish character. This poster is one of the more than 900 items in the Katz Ehrenthal Collection of antisemitic artifacts and visual materials.
    Artwork Title
    Oliver Twist
    manufacture:  approximately 1880-1908
    manufacture: Hartford (Conn.)
    Credit Line
    United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection, Gift of the Katz Family
    front, top right, printed, yellow ink : OLIVER / TWIST
    front, top left, inset image, printed, black ink : OLIVER INTRODUCED TO / THE KIND OLD GENT.
    front, bottom left, printed, black ink : FAGIN’S / LAST NIGHT ALIVE
    front, bottom left, below image, printed, yellow and red ink : FAGIN- / THE JEW.
    front, bottom right, inset image, printed, black ink : OLIVER’S RECEPTION / BY FAGIN AND THE BOYS.
    front, bottom left, white ink : CALHOUN PRINT. CO. HARTFORD CT.
    Compiler: Peter Ehrenthal
    Printer: Calhoun Printing Company
    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

    Physical Description
    Large, woodblock-printed poster divided onto three, evenly sized sheets of off-white paper, and mounted on a white, linen backing. A portion of the image is printed on each section, and the full image is seen when the sections are combined. The main image, which is viewed through a cut-out section of a brick wall, shows a man with a large nose, thick eyebrows and a beard. He is wearing a red kerchief around his head, a long green coat, and brown pants with black boots. His legs are shackled and he sits on a cot in a jail cell while nervously biting his fingernails. A small black caption is below his feet, and larger, yellow text is printed in the upper right and lower left corners. There are two smaller, inset images in yellow and black bordered panels in the upper left and lower right corners. The top scene depicts the same man, in a yellow robe, holding a toasting fork in front of a fire while two younger boys look on. The lower scene depicts the man, four other figures, and a dog surrounding a young boy in a room. Both scenes have a small black caption at the bottom. Publication information is in the bottom left corner. In the publication information, the T in “Hartford” was originally an F, but was altered. Sections of water damage are visible along the right and bottom edges of the paper, and previous repairs have been made with tape.
    overall: Height: 82.500 inches (209.55 cm) | Width: 42.000 inches (106.68 cm)
    overall : paper, ink, linen, adhesive, tape

    Rights & Restrictions

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

    Keywords & Subjects

    Geographic Name
    Hartford (Conn.)

    Administrative Notes

    The poster 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:
    2022-12-14 09:07:28
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