Hanukkah Lamp

Unknown Artist/Maker19th century (?)

The Jewish Museum, New York

The Jewish Museum, New York
New York, United States

A number of Italian cast lamps bear a representation of the heroine Judith in a prominent position. Judith came to have varying symbolism over the millennia among both Jews and Christians. According to Leone di Modena, writing in the seventeenth century, Italian Jews honored her at Hanukkah because she was a Hasmonean descendant. Earlier, in Renaissance Florence, Judith took on a secular symbolism, becoming the embodiment of civic virtue and the struggle of the citizens of Florence against Medici rule. This was exemplified by Donatello's sculpture of her, on whose pedestal was the following inscription: "Kingdoms fall through Luxury, cities rise through virtues; behold the neck of Pride severed by the hand of humility". The statue was eventually displayed in front of the city hall of Florence as a paradigm of the victory of the humble over the corruption of the mighty.
It is in this allegorical guise that Judith is depicted on Italian Hanukkah lamps. She wears not the sumptuous clothing described in the Bible, but a classical wrap of some kind that reveals much of her body. In one hand she raises a sword, in the other she holds the head of Holofernes. This form of representation became the standard iconography for depicting the courage of this heroine.
A date for this particular example can be based on that of a hybrid lamp in the collection whose lower half was cast from a related model. Instead of Judith, that lamp has two lions flanking a menorah, identical examples of which are found on eastern European lamps of nineteenth-century date.


  • Title: Hanukkah Lamp
  • Creator: Unknown Artist/Maker
  • Date Created: 19th century (?)
  • Location: Italy, Europe
  • Physical Dimensions: 6 × 7 7/16 × 2 3/8 in. (15.3 × 18.9 × 6.1 cm)
  • Type: Ceremonial Art
  • Rights: https://thejewishmuseum.org/about-this-site#terms-conditions
  • External Link: View this object at thejewishmuseum.org
  • Medium: Copper alloy: cast and chased

Get the app

Explore museums and play with Art Transfer, Pocket Galleries, Art Selfie, and more


Google apps