A Rare Gold-Washed Silver Temple Form Hanukkah Lamp

A Rare Gold-Washed Silver Temple Form Hanukkah Lamp

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This magnificent Chanukah menorah is fully hallmarked in numerous places for Czarist Russia, 1869. According to noted Judaica scholar Rafi Grafman (1939 – 2001), a total of twenty two of these Temple-form menorahs from Russia were created (this statement is noted in privately held papers of the late Grafman in New York City). Because of various minor differences in the examples of this type of menorah that are known today, it appears each piece was a specialized commission for what would have been a very wealthy patron. In our example, while we do have the famous “Pillars of Solomon” in the background, referencing The First Temple in Jerusalem, we do not have Temple Ark Doors or Priestly Hands that are featured in the examples seen below. We simply have a pleasant, generic quilting pattern. In all likelihood, the buyer of our menorah was an especially religious Jew, who was not comfortable with having symbols that are too-specific in form when referencing The First Temple, and had an aversion to depictions of any part of the human body. He therefore instructed the silversmith to make that part of the menorah lack those elements. Beginning at the top of the menorah, we have a pair of swans flanking a Crown of Torah. On either side of the swans are rows of flowers, and vases containing flowers, and at the upper right hand side, we have the original, removable servant light. Working our way downward, we have a pair of winged griffins, which were a favored design element of Eastern European Jewish ritual art. Then, two more columns which have faux-lanterns hanging off of them, and these columns culminate in flowerpots. At bottom, on an elegant tray supported by claw feet, are eight oil containers, appearing as large washing lavers. The enormous amount of multiple types of artisan craftsmanship is found in the forms of chasing, embossing, engraving, cutting & piercing, and casting. This menorah would have taken many months to assemble; hence the prohibitive cost to the overwhelming majority of Russian and Eastern European Jewry to make the ultimate “Hiddur Mitzvah”. What all Judaica collectors and museum curators dream of is acquiring a lavish piece of antique Jewish ritual art that has a documented, unwavering, pre-World War Two provenance. Unfortunately, this almost never occurs. However, because our menorah is “one of twenty two”, and the authenticity of our piece is beyond reproach, we have the next-best-thing to a pre-war provenance, as we can compare those menorahs that do have this provenance, and arrive at the obvious verdict that our piece is on par with those documented examples. To illustrate this point, shown below are photographic plates from the book “Hebraica, Documents d’Art Juif”, published in Paris, in 1930. Two of these plates show two examples from the aforementioned “twenty two”, and the other two plates show the owners “Judaica room” as it sat in 1930, along with a close-up of the placement of honor (on a pedestal), of one of the Russian menorahs. 

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