19th Century Polish Silver Hanukkah Lamp, Circa 1820
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Backplate depicts a pair of Lions of Judah that have been hammered in high relief, as well as engraved details such as the mane and eyes. The lions flanking the Tablets of the Law, of which the Ten Commandments are engraved in Hebrew. Crown at top with the prongs cut-out, which is lightly chased or matted. Rack of ovoid oil fonts with clawed side-arms, the whole resting on clawed feet. Bearing multiple hallmarks for Austria, the 19th century. A seemingly puzzling lamp, due to a peculiar mixing of styles. The lions are depicted in a wonderfully crude, primitive manner (i.e., “Folk Art”), which is emblematic of some Judaica hailing from parts of Poland and the Ukraine, especially rural areas of said countries. This applies to the crown as well, as it is not particularly sophisticated in its execution. However, the ovoid-shaped oil fonts are distinctly Austrian, and as stated previously, the hallmarks on the lamp are from Austria. Chanukah lamps bearing Austrian hallmarks are always very uniform, even regal in appearance, with highly realistic renderings of animals, etc. How can the styling and hallmarks on our lamp be explained, let alone exist? The region known as Galicia, was comprised of a large swath of territory, most of which is known today as parts of Poland and the Ukraine. Galicia was the largest, most populous, and northernmost province of the Austrian Empire until the dissolution of that monarchy at the end of World War One in 1918. So! Our lamp was most assuredly made in Galicia by a Jewish silversmith, yet technically it is “Austrian”, as this area was ruled by the Austrian Empire at the time the lamp was made, and it is correctly hallmarked as such. This lamp is a fabulous rarity of significant historical intrigue.