Auctions: Hanukka lamps at Sotheby's

Sotheby's annual sale of Judaica in New York includes a collection of 18th-century ritual silver objects from the Jewish community of Amsterdam.

silver menorah 88 298 (photo credit: )
silver menorah 88 298
(photo credit: )
Sotheby's annual sale of Judaica in New York on December 13 includes a collection of 18th-century ritual silver objects from the Jewish community of Amsterdam and an 18th-century decorated manuscript honoring physician and poet Dr. Isaac Luzzato. The Dutch silver is a knockout. A pair of rimmonim (Torah finials) with bells made by Willem Rosier in 1767 is expected to go for $100,000-$150,000. Two other pairs of finials made between 1750 and 1770 have estimates of $80,000-$120,000. A pair of silver scrollwork finials by Pieter Jan van Hoven from 1723 has a lower estimate of $40,000-$60,000. The congratulatory poem honoring the medical achievements of Dr. Luzzato was written in Hebrew in the 19th century, but inside a 17th-century decorated broadsheet. The Hebrew poem was written by the chief rabbi of Padua, Mordecai Ghirondi, Luzzato's brother-in-law. Framing it are 30 colorful vignettes featuring the signs of the Zodiac, symbols of the 12 Tribes, the four seasons and the five senses. A panoramic view of Jerusalem crowns the page, and the whole has the character of a 17th-century ketuba (marriage contract) then produced for wealthy Jewish families ($80,000-$100,000). A number of fine ketubot are included in this huge 258-lot sale. Appropriately, there are a number of very fine Hanukka lamps of all persuasions. A Collectanea, a 15th-century manuscript on paper from the academy of Ibn Shem Tov in Segovia contains the only known copy of an unpublished epistle of Sa'adia Gaon (882-942), the leader of Babylonian Jewry ($50,000-$70,000). Among the printed books on offer is the earliest printed copy of Rashi's commentary on the Five Scrolls, which appears with his commentary on the Pentateuch, printed by the Gentile Hebraist Daniel Bomberg in Venice in 1522. A rare 17th-century tallit katan (tzitzit) of blue satin with gilt and silver threads has an estimate of $30,000-$40,000. A very fine ketuba from Italy, 1761, is estimated at $80,000-$100,000. A silver Hanukka lamp, one of a seasonal number in this sale, is from Halberstadt, 1711 ($80,000-$100,000). Several quite spectacular Torah crowns also caught my eye. A private collection of early Bezalel works, many finely made, are also on offer. Among the paintings in this sale are seven fairly early oils by the prolific Viennese Jewish genre painter Isidor Kaufmann (1853-1921), headed by his meticulous oil on panel The Antiquarian, a study of an old Jew seated lost in thought among his collection of furniture, cast-off boots, hats and clocks, which dates from the 1880s ($350,000-$450,000). Kaufmann's other close-up portraits will start at around $40,000. An oil study by Moritz Daniel Oppenheim, The Bar Mitzvah Speech, is a rarity ($30,000-$50,000). Other paintings are by Krestin, Snowman and Moyse.