Jews in Vanity Fair*

Articles Image

During the years between 1869 and 1914, over 2300 caricatures were produced, one in each weekly issue of the magazine Vanity Fair. There were also groups which appeared in special season issues. Vanity Fair changed format and owner? ship in 1914 when the title was acquired by Conde Nast, who published it regularly until 1936 in America.1 It was revived there in 1983, and since 1984 an English edition has been produced. As well as the weekly issue, with its print and biographical note, there were annual albums each year until 1912, which were sold at 3 guineas each, bound in green cloth with gold tooling. There were also albums of proof copies, bound in leather and in strictly limited editions of ten, fifteen or twenty. The proofs were printed before the lettering was added and the album price was 15 guineas. Given a forty-fold multiplier, an equivalent contemporary price would be about ?600. This was clearly a magazine for the Establishment.

It was founded by Sir Thomas Gibson Bowles,2 one of the early media mag? nates. His other magazine, The Lady, has continued in family ownership to this day. Bowles became a politician and was an early patron of Winston Churchill. He was also the maternal grandfather of the Mitford sisters

The artist who started producing the series of caricatures, reproduced by chromolithography, was Carlo Pellegrini. Each print was accompanied by a note which conveyed what society then thought of, and about, the person caricatured. The series revived the flagging circulation of the magazine from the issue that appeared in February 1869, with the caricature of Disraeli and a sardonic bio? graphical note. The biographical material of each caricature in this paper is intended to encapsulate this contemporary treatment. Such was the demand for this print, and for the second caricature of Gladstone, both of them signed 'Singe', that they were reworked. All the later copies were signed 'Ape', which was the anglicized pseudonym adopted by Carlo Pelligrini for his subsequent work.

It is important to stress the context in which the Jewish caricatures appeared. The roughly 2350 caricatures which appeared over forty-four years represented a cross-section of the elite of Victorian and Edwardian society. Among these are more than seventy Jews, some 3 per cent of the total. At the beginning of this


Plate i Benjamin Disraeli.

period the Jewish population was perhaps only 0.25 per cent and grew to about 1 per cent. These are Jews who were practising or who were regarded as Jews at least for part of their life. Disraeli is listed because he was born a Jew, although he was converted to overcome the barriers to Jews from which his father had suffered. (Disraeli was little troubled by this apparent change and, unlike most converts, maintained warm links with the community, ultimately having a Roth? schild as one of his executors.)3

The list which appears in the Appendix has been compiled by the author, with help from Bernard Miller of

Become a member to read the full article
Become a member today


24 hour access to JHSE online resources

Instant access to over 700 articles View the original articles as a PDF
Learn More


Annual JHSE Membership

Members are entitled to a free copy of the latest Jewish Historical Studies, free access to our online resources and associate membership of the UCL Library in London.  In addition, they receive the JHSE Newsletter, special offers on books for sale and pay less to attend our series of lectures and other public events.
Learn More


Student Membership

The JHSE want to encourage students to engage with Jewish history.  Apply for a Student Membership with your university email account and once we have verified your status you will soon have all the benefits of being a full JHSE member.
Learn More


Associate your Institution with the JHSE

Give your members access to JHSE online resources and special offers on book sales.  Use your institutional email account when applying, and once your status is verified we will explain the scheme.  Preferred payment is by credit or debit card.
Learn More

Your Cart