Hanukkah Lamp

Unknown Artist/Makerearly 18th century

The Jewish Museum, New York

The Jewish Museum, New York

At the top of this lamp is the image of a pelican piercing her breast to feed her young. Since its appearance in the Book of Job, this has been a symbol of the devoted mother, who feeds her young with her own blood when no other sustenance is available. For Christians it also became a symbol of Jesus. In 1639, the three Portuguese Jewish congregations of Amsterdam merged into one community, the Talmud Torah, and adopted the pelican with her young as their emblem. This lamp, bearing the synagogue's symbol, may therefore have been used in the Portuguese Synagogue.
The rendering of the biblical passages in Dutch is enigmatic, since the vast majority of inscriptions on Jewish ceremonial art are in Hebrew. The Sephardi community was founded in 1590 primarily by conversos; while at first their knowledge of Hebrew and Jewish customs may have been sketchy, they founded a Talmud Torah in 1616 to teach the younger generation about Judaism. This school became renowned for its Jewish scholarship. It is therefore unlikely that it was a lack of knowledge of Hebrew that contributed to the inscriptions being written in Dutch; furthermore, the community was more likely to have used Spanish or Portuguese.
To date the lamp, one might look at the version of the Bible used. It appears to date somewhere between the States General Bible of 1637 and the Adolf Visscher Amsterdam Bible of 1750, although it is perhaps closer to the later edition. The lamp is quite worn and exhibits considerable age; the row of oil containers is now missing. Its combination of openwork above and solid metal below is unique for Dutch sheet-metal lamps. A dating in the early eighteenth century is suggested by the limited use of pierced decoration.

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  • Title: Hanukkah Lamp
  • Creator: Unknown Artist/Maker
  • Date Created: early 18th century
  • Location: Amsterdam, Netherlands, Europe
  • Physical Dimensions: 11 13/16 × 13 × 3 5/16 in. (30 × 33 × 8.4 cm)
  • Type: Ceremonial Art
  • Rights: https://thejewishmuseum.org/about-this-site#terms-conditions
  • External Link: View this object at thejewishmuseum.org
  • Medium: Copper alloy: repoussé, pierced, engraved, punched, and silver-plated