Auction 92 Part 1 Rare and Important Items

Brass Hanukkah Lamp – Early Architectural Type – Italy, 17th Century

Opening: $4,000
Estimate: $8,000 - $10,000
Sold for: $8,750
Including buyer's premium

Architectural Hanukkah lamp. [Italy, 17th century].
Brass, cast and pierced; rivets.
Hanukkah lamp representing an early and uncommon architectural type. Back plate designed in form of a fence consisting of eight stylized columns and a slender rail. With two additional end-columns differing one from the other in size and shape, with the left-end column wider than the right; each end-column bears two apertures through which the two side panels are attached. The side panels are each shaped as the top of a tower with crenellations facing forward (unlike other architectural Hanukkah lamps in which the crenellations point upwards). At the center of the back panel is a tall tower surmounted by three crenellations. The tower is architecturally reminiscent of both Florence's Palazzo Vecchio and Siena's Palazzo Pubblico. The lamp's servant light, projecting forward, is attached just below the top of the tower. The row of rounded oil fonts, with pinched, pointed spouts for the wicks, is attached to the bottom of the back plate.
This early Hanukkah lamp belongs to a group of Italian lamps, dating from the 16th and 17th centuries, with architectural back plates usually modeled after city walls, palaces, and other monumental Baroque-style Italian Renaissance structures. This type of back plate, generally oriented widthwise, replaced the triangular back plate that characterized earlier Hanukkah lamps (mostly from Spain and Italy, but from other countries as well), which were inspired by the Gothic art of the Middle Ages.
A Hanukkah lamp similar to the one here is documented by Mordechai Narkiss in his book "The Hanukkah Lamp" (item no. 44, see below), but it has an additional panel above the fence, and lacks side panels. Another related Hanukkah lamp, belonging to the Judah L. Magnes Museum collection, Berkeley (item no., see below; previously of the Strauss Collection), also lacks side panels, and lacks the tower-shaped structure at center and the servant light. In the Magnes Museum's catalogue of Hanukkah lamps, it is noted that this lamp may be only a fragment of a taller lamp, in which the servant light was attached at the top, similar to the lamp mentioned above, cited by Narkiss (no. 44). Considering the existing variants of this type of lamp and the particular characteristics of the present lamp, it is quite possible that in the case of the present specimen, the servant light and side panels were added at a later time. Nevertheless, it should be noted that the present lamp was intended to be hung on a wall, and its side panels were never meant to serve as a base for support (a feature which only developed later), a fact which strengthens the connection between this lamp and Italian Hanukkah lamps of the 16th and 17th centuries.

Height: 18.5 cm. Width: 26 cm. Depth: 6 cm. Overall good condition. Minor blemishes. Fracture to back plate. Old repair with tin to row of oil fonts.

For comparison and additional information, see: Mordechai Narkiss, The Hanukkah Lamp, Jerusalem, 1939 (Hebrew with English summary), item nos. 44-47; Hanukkah Lamps of the Judah L. Magnes Museum, Berkeley, California, 1977, item nos. MC 7, MC 8; Chaya Benjamin, The Stieglitz Collection: Masterpieces of Jewish Art, The Israel Museum, Jerusalem, 1987 (Hebrew and English), item nos. 127-129; The Center for Jewish Art, Hebrew University of Jerusalem, item no. 4963; The V&A Museum, South Kensington, London, item no. M.415-1956.
Provenance: Collection of Raffaello Levi (1885-1971), Venice.

Jewish Ceremonial Art and Various Objects