Encompassing nearly 1,050 pieces, the Jewish Museum’s collection of Hanukkah lamps is the largest in the world. Ranging in date from the Renaissance to 2013, the exhibition includes lamps made of silver, brass, iron, pewter, tin, lead, glass, wood, ceramic, and even silicone, reflecting the diverse economic statuses and aesthetic tastes of Jews over the ages and their desire to celebrate the miracle of Hanukkah in the most beautiful way possible.
18th century Hanukkah Lamp from Germany by JI (?)The Jewish Museum, New York
"The Portable Hanukkah Lamp is so charming and small. It’s designed to create fire and it’s designed to hold fuel. But I think more than anything, it’s designed to hold tradition in a pocket size. It’s scalloped as though they were fish scales on the side."—Kehinde Wiley, artist.
19th-early 20th century Hanukkah Lamp from Morocco by UnknownThe Jewish Museum, New York
The central decorative element on this lamp is the seven-branch menorah, flanked by two vases. From ancient times, the lamp was supposed to be hung on the doorpost of one's home, to publicize the miracle that took place during the Maccabean revolt. As one entered the door, the lamp would be on the left, opposite the mezuzah. Although in later times many Jewish communities came to place the light indoors, many Moroccan Jews have preserved the earlier tradition.
Hanukkah Lamp (1942) by Arnold Zadikow and Leopold HechtThe Jewish Museum, New York
This Hanukkah lamp is a rare example of Jewish ceremonial art created during the Holocaust. Sculptor and architect Arnold Zadikow was deported to the camp-ghetto Theresienstadt in May 1942 and assigned to make decorative arts for the Nazis. Zadikow was aided by a young woodcarver interned in the camp, Leopold Hecht, who stole the wood for the lamp from the Germans. The lamp was made for the boys’ residence, to enable the children to celebrate Hanukkah and to teach them about Judaism, since Jewish instruction was forbidden. It was hidden all year and taken out only during the holiday. Zadikow died at Theresienstadt, but his daughter Marianne and wife, Hilda, also an artist, survived. The lamp was found in the camp after the war.
19th-20th century Hanukkah Lamp from Coastal North Africa by UnknownThe Jewish Museum, New York
This lamp represents a combination of Italian and North African elements. The rectangular backplate form with crenellations across the top is found on some Italian lamps. The backplate was cast from the same model as a lamp in the Israel Museum that was purchased in Morocco. In addition, an example of this type of backplate has the same scrolled element in the center that is found on coastal North African lamps.
Menorahmorph (2004) by Karim RashidThe Jewish Museum, New York
Karim Rashid's production runs the gamut from industrial design, art, and music to installations. His Hanukkah lamp, commissioned by the museum and produced in three colors, displays the biomorphic form, contemporary material, and brilliant color that characterize his work.
Hanukkah Lamp (1757 (date of inscription)) by R LThe Jewish Museum, New York
Mirrored Hanukkah lamps are very rare, probably due to the fact that until the 18th-century glass mirrors were quite expensive to make.
16th century Hanukkah Lamp from Italy by UnknownThe Jewish Museum, New York
This lamp is made from the lost-wax process and likely dates to the Renaissance. The crenellations across the top were derived from medieval architecture, seen, for example, in the fourteenth-century Palazzo Vecchio in Florence. Their use on Hanukkah lamps goes back at least to the fifteenth century, when they were depicted on a lamp in an Italian Hebrew manuscript.
Hanukkah Lamp (c. 1885) by Unknown Artist/MakerThe Jewish Museum, New York
"This particular set of ritual miniaturized dollhouse-like chairs comes from Eastern Europe, so it’s not just that these things made their way from the old world to the new, but they also speak to the imagination, and I could conjure up a scene in which children are playing with these, moving the chairs…a game." —Jenna Weissman Joselit, historian of daily life.