tapered molded staves with gilt gadrooned band, rising to a knop chased with acanthus and pierced with oves, the bombé lowest tier of the body with shaped bell-hung openings between ribs topped with stylized bird heads and ending in bells, the next tier with bell-hung arches separated by S-scroll arches above pierced gallery, topped with gilt finials (several missing), the bombé top tier with leaf-form ribs hung with bells between, gilt crown tops above pearled bands and below two-tiered finials
The number of surviving Jewish objects by Pieter Jansz van Hoven (1653-1735) exceeds that of any other silversmith. He was born in Amsterdam, the son of an Utrecht skipper. In 1679 he married Marritje Christiaansz Snel and is recorded on Uilenburg Street, near the Jewish quarter; he must have been received as a master silversmith about this time. Just three years later he married Maria Fassauer, and three years after that he married again, with Elizabeth Bevoort.
This model had been developed in Amsterdam by the 1690s; the earliest example by Van Hoven seems to be a pair of 1696 in the Jewish Historical Museum, Amsterdam (J.C.E. Belifante, Jewish Historical Museum, 1978, p. 34). That museum also holds a pair dated 1705 (Julie-Marthe Cohen, ed. Gifts from the Heart, 2004, no. 12). That same year, Van Hoven made the pair in the Jewish Museum, New York (Grafman no. 383) and the single example sold from the Jewish Community of Amsterdam (Sotheby's, New York, 13 December 2006, lot 113).
A pair of very similar finials, Amsterdam, 1692, without maker's mark, was presented to Bevis Marks (London) in 1839 by Judith and Rachel Cardozo Nunes in memory of their brother Aaron Cardozo Nunes, one of the most prominant Jewish figures in Gibraltar (A.G. Grimwade et al, Treasures of a London Temple, no. 15, pp. 27-38). The 1705 pair of van Hoven finials now in the Jewish Historical Museum, Amsterdam, was presented to a synagogue in Vreeland in 1816/17, again over a century after their creation.
These donations shows the continued popularity of this Dutch model in the English-speaking Sephardic world into the 19th century, and the tradition of giving antique pieces rather than commissioning new ritual objects. It is probably that the unheavals of the Napoleonic Wars brought antique finials onto the market, either plundered or sold by congregations looking to rebuild.
The inscription on the finials from Shaar Hashamayin probably refers to Rev. Abraham Haim (A)Bergel, "son of Zadik (holy man) Isaac Bergel" (José Maria Abecassis, Genealogia Hebraica, p. 436). He is recorded as godfather, and therefore probably grandfather, of Yomtob Bergel, one of the wealthiest and most important merchants of 19th century Gibraltar. Abraham's tombstone notes (translated) "A man of complete wisdom and one who reunites wisdom." (A)Bergel died in 1813, so the presentation of these already antique finials to Shaar Hashamayim at that time would be in line with the presentations recorded above.
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