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Hanukkah Lamp

R L1757 (date of inscription)

The Jewish Museum, New York

The Jewish Museum, New York
New York, United States

A storage box that once housed this lamp bore the Hebrew inscription, "In the year 1757 I acquired this Hanukkah lamp made of glass. Jacob Juda Bing Frankfurt a/M." The date of 1757 is consistent with the Rococo style of the lamp, with its rocaille edges and asymmetrical finial. Jacob Juda Bing is known from Klaus Dietz's genealogical study of the Jewish community of Frankfurt, where there is a mention of him in 1762 and a death date of 1798. Bing belonged to a Levite family that was first documented in Frankfurt in 1634, when his grandfather Isaak of Bingen married and was granted right of residence in the city. Since 1462, the Jews of Frankfurt had been confined to a walled-in ghetto, the Judengasse. Housing could not expand beyond the walls, and by the seventeenth century, when Bing's grandfather arrived, the number of residents was strictly regulated.
Mirrored Hanukkah lamps are very rare, probably due to the fact that until the eighteenth century glass mirrors were quite expensive to make. Large mirrors were so prized that they were often given as gifts from one monarch to another. By the eighteenth century domestic markets for mirrors increased in places like Germany, but it was not until the nineteenth century that two labor-saving inventions made mirrors more widely available. These innovations consisted of a chemical means of silvering the glass, and a special furnace that speeded up the glass melting process. It is therefore remarkable that the original owner of this lamp was able to afford it.
The use of mirrors on Hanukkah lamps served to intensify greatly the brilliance of the lights, and parallels the use of mirrored backplates on secular wall sconces. The engraved decoration found on the Jewish Museum lamp seems to have been a specialty of Italian mirror makers, as many examples were produced there in the eighteenth century. Italian glassmakers worked throughout Europe, bringing their skills and techniques with them, and so this piece could certainly have been made in Germany, which was one of the major mirror-producing countries.

Details

  • Title: Hanukkah Lamp
  • Creator: R L
  • Date Created: 1757 (date of inscription)
  • Location: Frankfurt am Main, Germany, Europe
  • Physical Dimensions: 12 × 13 × 3 3/8 in. (30.5 × 33 × 8.5 cm)
  • Type: Ceremonial Art
  • Rights: https://thejewishmuseum.org/about-this-site#terms-conditions
  • External Link: View this object at thejewishmuseum.org
  • Medium: Mirrored glass: engraved and acid-etched, lead; tin; wood

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