19th Century Polish Silver and Silver Filigree Hanukkah Lamp Menorah
Silver and silver filigree Hanukkah Lamp Menorah, Poland or Ukraine, 19th century. Mainly decorated with silver filigree, topped by a crown with three birds (one above the crown and two flanked below), and ewer-formed oil holders. Hanukkah lamps of this style were widespread in Eastern Europe, and are known as “Baal Shem Tov” Hanukkah lamps, as it has been an oral tradition amongst Chasidim that the Baal Shem Tov used a Hanukkah Lamp shaped like this. It is clear that this lamp was made in the 19th century and could not have been seen by contemporaries of the Baal Shem Tov, as he died in 1760. However, given that Chasidic dynasties pass down objects and also copy them faithfully from generation to generation, this Menorah was very likely owned by a Chasidic Rebbe and reflected an earlier model. The repeated use of bird motifs on this lamp, though not specific to Chasidim, appears frequently on objects they use and is interpreted mystically as a symbol of the divine presence on earth, the Shechinah.