Hanukkah Lamp

Caspar Birckenholtz1661-90

The Jewish Museum, New York

The Jewish Museum, New York

The earliest silver Hanukkah lamp known in Germany is most likely this simple chest form. A version with a vaulted lid appeared later around 1700 through 1775. All but one of these chest-form lamps with identifiable marks were made in Frankfurt.
Jews had lived in Frankfurt since at least the Middle Ages, and by the time this lamp was made had been confined to a ghetto for several centuries. A maximum of 500 families were allowed residence in the ghetto. Some Jews had achieved considerable wealth, and one can surmise that this lamp was commissioned for one such well-to-do resident. The large number of Hanukkah lamps created by Frankfurt silversmiths suggests that Jewish community members were important patrons, and in fact documentary evidence indicates that active patronage of Christian silversmiths went back to at least the sixteenth century. Several silversmiths, such as Rötger Herfurth and Georg Wilhelm Schedel, seem to have catered to an almost exclusively Jewish clientele, since almost all of their known works are Jewish ceremonial objects.
The only ornamented portions of the lamp are the spouts that held the wicks, which are in the shape of fish's heads, and the paw-shaped feet. This simplicity could reflect the influence of the "undecorated style," one of the trends in early Baroque decorative arts of the second half of the seventeenth century. Alternatively, it could result from the economic means of the purchaser. The inspiration for this form can only be conjectured. A related secular object type from this period was the box-shaped inkstand, and in fact an example made in England in 1717 with flat lid, no decoration, and pull-out drawer on the bottom seems remarkably similar in design.

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  • Title: Hanukkah Lamp
  • Creator: Caspar Birckenholtz
  • Date Created: 1661-90
  • Location: Frankfurt am Main, Germany, Europe
  • Physical Dimensions: 2 3/4 × 5 1/4 × 2 7/8 in. (7 × 13.3 × 7.4 cm)
  • Type: Ceremonial Art
  • Rights: https://thejewishmuseum.org/about-this-site#terms-conditions
  • External Link: View this object at thejewishmuseum.org
  • Medium: Silver: hand-worked and cast