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This particularly fine Shabbat lamp of brass that has been cast and chased, was to be used during the Jewish Sabbath. It has much obvious wear and age with a rich, deep patina and smoothed areas from handling at the relevant contact points. It is also more elaborate than most and is beautifully chased all over with flower and other motifs. (See a similar example in Goldenberg, 2014, p. 99).
The top of the lamp is decorated with four bird motifs intended to represent pigeons, which were seen in Morocco as representing fertility and prosperity on account of their having many offspring at once. The flanges that emerge from each side of the main stem similarly represent pigeon feet.
The key-hole aperture in the top plate represents the portal of life or the gates to heaven. Everyone enters and leaves life through this space.
The centre of the top plate is chased with a large Star of David. It is infilled with a stylised rose of Andalusia, a motif brought to Morocco by the Spanish-Andalusian Jews prior to the early 18th century.
Three asterisk-like motifs have been engraved below the top plate. These are symbols often seen on metalwork in the Fez-Taza region of northern Morocco.
The sides of the oil pan are chased all the way around with more Andalusian rose motifs. Bird motifs protrude from each side too – usually these are missing (indeed, the example illustrated in Goldenberg (p. 99) is missing its birds).
The underside of the pan is chased with a six-petalled flower motif in a roundel and surrounded by more floral scrollwork. The fact that the base is so beautifully decorated suggest that the lamp was intended to be hung high on a wall where the underside could be seen.
A long brass chain attaches a metal prodder that sits in the pan to the upper plate. Also, a thick brass loop at the back of the lamp was used to hang the lamp on a wall.
Genuine Jewish Moroccan lamps are rare and much sought after; many recent copies abound. This fine example is particularly good, complete and with obvious age.
Goldenberg, A., Art and the Jews of Morocco, Somogy Editions, 2014.