Hand painted vase with a scene of Portia and Shylock in the courtroom

Language of Description
Alt. Identifiers
  • 2016.184.15
Level of Description
  • English
EHRI Partner

Extent and Medium

overall: Height: 5.750 inches (14.605 cm) | Width: 4.250 inches (10.795 cm) | Depth: 2.125 inches (5.398 cm)


Biographical History

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.

Archival History

The vase was donated to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in 2016 by the Katz Family.


United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection, Gift of 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.

Scope and Content

Porcelain vase from the late 19th or early 20th century with an image of the courtroom scene from Shakespeare's play, The Merchant of Venice. The vase was manufactured by the Porzellanfabrik Victoria Schmidt & Co (now part of Thun Karlovarský Porcelán) in Carlsbad, Austria-Hungary (now, Karlovy Vary, Czech Republic), and features a reproduction of an illustration by the English artist, Walter Paget. The image was commonly used on tableware and decorative ceramics. In the scene, Shylock has a long beard and is wearing a skullcap, both stereotypical features attributed to Jewish men. Jews were expelled from England in 1290, making it unlikely that Shakespeare ever met a Jewish person, and he likely based Shylock on longstanding antisemitic stereotypes. In the play, Shylock is a Jewish moneylender who demands a pound of flesh as recompense from a merchant who failed to repay a loan. Although some scenes make him a sympathetic character, and show how society and his Christian enemies cruelly mistreat him, in the end, he is punished and forced to convert to Christianity. The play was extremely popular in Nazi Germany, with fifty productions between 1933 and 1939. The Ministry of Propaganda created edited versions of the play that removed scenes and lines that evoked sympathy for Shylock or Jews. The Nazis used Shylock to promote Jewish inferiority by making him emblematic of the Jewish race’s perceived wickedness. These versions ignored the ambiguity Shylock was originally infused with, and portrayed him as an avaricious and vengeful character that was grotesque and inhuman. Despite the stereotypical and anti-Jewish elements, the play remains popular and continues to spark debates over whether it should be considered antisemitic. This vase is one of more than 900 items in the Katz Ehrenthal Collection of antisemitic artifacts and visual materials.

Conditions Governing Access

No restrictions on access

Conditions Governing Reproduction

No restrictions on use

Physical Characteristics and Technical Requirements

Two-handled, porcelain vase with a colorful image of the courtroom scene from the play, The Merchant of Venice. In the image, a young woman, disguised as a man, in red legal robes stands opposite an older man in a gold and green robe. The older man has a white beard and wears a black skullcap. The woman, on the left, points to a large contract in her hand while looking at the older man who holds a dagger in one hand and balance scales in the other. They stand before a judge wearing ermine robes and seated at his bench, which is draped with a red, tasseled cloth. He is visible between them in the background. There are two onlookers standing in the left background. The circular image is centered on the front of the white vase, which has a ring handle on each side of the neck, and a short oval-shaped foot with decorative ridges extending from it, ending in scalloped edges. The neck, foot, handles, and the areas around them are teal in color with decorative, diagonal, gold-colored streaks on the darkest sections. Painted below the image, to the left, is the title of the scene, and to the right is the artist’s name. The center of the back is a blank white section. There is some residue adhered to the left of the image, and the gold paint along the rim edge is worn.




This description is derived directly from structured data provided to EHRI by a partner institution. This collection holding institution considers this description as an accurate reflection of the archival holdings to which it refers at the moment of data transfer.