New York’s Jewish Museum possesses more than 1,000 Hanukkah menorahs, the lamps that are lit in Jewish households to mark the eight-day festival commemorating the victory in 164 BCE of Judah Maccabee over Seleucid King Antiochus IV and the cleansing of the Jerusalem Temple that the latter had desecrated. To celebrate its centennial in 2004, the museum published a comprehensive inventory of these objects, consisting of two volumes, available separately. The first, Luminous Art contains an introduction and a selection of 114 highlights of the collection, ranging from the 17th century to the present; the second, a more extensive catalogue raisonné (to be published later), will feature descriptions of another 543 lamps, the remainder being variants and duplicates of secondary interest. Luminous Art is a very handsome publication, whose opening pages (p. 6-38) outline the historical background of the Hanukkah festival, its evolution over the centuries, the variety of forms that the lamps may take, and some of the men and women who pioneered in the collection of this material. This is followed by detailed descriptions of the lamps (p. 41-221), each of which is illustrated by color photographs of high quality.
Summing Up: Essential. All levels. Reviewer: W. Cahn, Yale University Subject: Humanities – Art & Architecture Choice Issue: May 2005