It’s going to take a lot more than eight nights to shed light on this menorah mystery.
A 14-foot bronze menorah designed by “Charging Bull” sculptor Arturo Di Modica has popped up in a Long Island auction house nearly 22 years after its unexplained disappearance — and now it’s at the center of an ownership battle worthy of the Maccabees.
“I was told the menorah was lost and was never going to be found again,” said Jacob Harmer, a Di Modica buff and eagle-eyed London gallerist who in October spotted the long-lost piece on the website of Seaford, LI, house Echoes Auctions.
Auctioneer Robert Gambassi insists the acquisition was kosher, and refuses to return the piece to Di Modica.
“I don’t think it’s the artist’s anymore,” said Gambassi. “Just because he made it doesn’t mean he still owns it.”
Nassau County cops investigated the tug of war but, absent any criminality, ruled there was bupkis they could do for Di Modica and labeled the case a civil matter.
Crafted by the Sicilian-born Di Modica, the towering menorah was erected near his most iconic piece in Bowling Green in 1997 to mark Hanukkah, then went into storage — and for the better part of two decades was widely presumed lost or stolen.
But Lou Thomas, who consigned the piece to Gambassi, insisted the piece was never missing and was simply gathering dust in a Chelsea building until 2014 when he was hired by the owners to clean it out.
“I just knew it was a menorah and I wouldn’t throw a menorah away,” he told The Post, explaining that the building’s owners allowed him to keep it — though he refused to name the landlord or specify the building’s address.
“I thought it was a unique piece,” he said. “I didn’t know who this guy [Di Modica] was.”
When Thomas earlier this year decided to sell the menorah, he went to Gambassi, who initially went to cops himself as what he called a “routine” precaution to make sure he wasn’t being set up to serve as an unwitting fence.
“All of a sudden we put it online and people are saying it’s stolen,” said Gambassi.
The first to call foul was Harmer, a Di Modica acquaintance, dealer and biographer.
“I spoke with the auction-house owner and he told me enough information that it lined up with the story,” said Harmer, who claimed the menorah “was being marketed as a Di Modica sculpture.”
Di Modica was allowed to view the piece and confirmed it as his own, but Gambassi has refused to let the menorah go.
In a statement, Di Modica called for the menorah’s return in time for it to shine over Bowling Green by this month’s Festival of Lights.