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    Moroccan Jewish Cast Brass Hanukkah Lamp

    Jewish Community, Central Morocco, probably Marrakech or Essaouria
    18th century

    height: 19.4cm, width: 27cm, depth: 6.7cm, weight: 1,931g

    Available Enquire


    UK art market

    This Hanukkah lamp, of heavy, cast brass, is from the Jewish community of northern Africa, most probably in Central Morocco, although similar lamps were used by the Jewish communities in Tunisia and Algeria.

    It has been cast in two sections – the lamp or cup tray and the Baroque-style, foliate backing plate which includes a central shield-like cartouche, and a heart motif as a finial. Included are highly stylised bird motifs – the high degree of stylisation suggesting Islamic Arab influence with its preference to avoid the depiction of animal forms.  The curls might also relate to the rose of Andalusia, a motif often found in the work of Jewish artisans and their descendants who fled Spain for Morocco. (The lamp tray and the backing plate are bolted together.)

    The lamp has room for eight candles or wicks. The ninth well probably would have been fixed to the backing plate and this is now missing as often is the case with old Moroccan Jewish Hanukkah lamps of this type, including examples held in museum collections. This would have held the server or ‘servant’ candle (shamash) or wick used to light the other candles.

    Like all North African Hanukkah lamps, this example was designed to be hung on the wall.

    During the annual festival of Hanukkah (which means ‘dedication’ in Hebrew), one light is lit on the first night, and another is added each night until all eight lights are lit by the final night of the festival.

    The earliest north African Jews probably came from ancient Israel and assimilated with local Berber customs. They were joined by other Jews from the Middle East and the Mediterranean after the Arab conquest in the 7th century. More arrived from Spain in the 14th and 15th centuries  after the persecutions there and finally their expulsion. Metalwork and jewellery making were among the specialties of Jewish craftsmen in north Africa serving their own communities plus local Arab and Berber communities.

    Genuine Jewish Moroccan lamps are rare and much sought after; many recent copies abound. This fine example has vey clear age. It is well-cast and has a deep green patina. It is an excellent example.


    Braunstein, S., Luminous Art: Hanukkah Menorahs of the Jewish Museum, Yale University Press, 2004.

    Goldenberg, A., Art and the Jews of Morocco, Somogy Editions, 2014.

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