Around the 1730s a type of lamp appeared in Augsburg and Berlin that would eventually develop into a favorite Berlin type. These lamps are quite small, with a rocaille-framed backplate, a very deep oil box, and a leaf projecting from each side of the box. While the majority have a bouquet or basket of flowers in the center, the image in the center of this example is a pitcher and basin, symbolizing the Levites, or servitors, who tended the Jerusalem Temple in antiquity. In all likelihood the owner of the lamp was descended from Levites, a distinction that still carries certain rights and obligations.
Augsburg was one of the major silversmithing centers in Germany. By the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, it was producing silver on a large enough scale that it was exported by commercial houses to cities all over Europe and sold at the major fairs in Frankfurt and Leipzig. It seems likely that this lamp type originated in Augsburg and then came to the attention of Berlin masters or their clients, possibly through display at the fairs.
The maker of this lamp, Johann Christoph Drentwett I, was a member of one of the two major silversmith families of eighteenth-century Augsburg that provided plate to the kings and princes of Europe. Helmut Seling, in his definitive work on Augsburg silver, lists seventeen works by this master and illustrates eight. Drentwett created at least one other work of Jewish ceremonial art, a Torah shield in the Israel Museum collection. Jewish ceremonial silver was generally not made by the most renowned silversmiths, so the fact that this lovely lamp was made by such a highly regarded master is noteworthy.