Byzantine – Early Islamic Terracotta Slipper Oil Lamp

£ 200.00

A good-sized Byzantine, Early Islamic terracotta oil lamp, most commonly known as slipper lamp, due to its resemblance in shape to a slipper. The decoration of the lamp is typically abstract, depicting lines, raised dots and vine scrolls in relief in an “horror vacui” fashion. The decorated space, which surrounds both filling hole and wick hole, is framed within two parallel raised grooves which run along the sides and under the twisted handle of the lamp. Light blackening traces on the surface from use. The reverse in unmodelled.

Date: Circa 7th - 10th century AD
Provenance: Ex major S.M., London, Collection 1970-2010.
Condition: Very fine. Small chips to the handle and wick hole. Signs of blackening on the surface.


Product Code: BS-24
Category: Tags: ,

In Antiquity, a lamp was originally called a lychnus, from the Greek λυχνος, with the oldest Roman lamps dating back to the third century BC. It is thought that the Romans took the idea for lamps from the Greek colonies of Southern Italy. During the Roman Empire, it became commonplace to use lamps in funeral ceremonies and for public purposes. Over time, the manufacture of lamps increased, and so did the variation in decoration, which depended mainly on the shape and size of the lamp. Common decorative themes depicted on the discus were entertainment scenes (such as gladiators in combat), common myths, and animals. Pottery oil lamps could be made in three different ways: handmade, wheel made, or by mould. The use of the mould (which was made from clay or plaster), introduced in the third century BC, quickly became popular, because one mould could produce several lamps. The Byzantine Empire existed as a continuation of the Roman Empire in its eastern provinces, meaning that the form of these oil lamps shows strong similarities to the Roman style.

To discover more about the ancient origins of oil lamps, visit our relevant post: Oil Lamps in Antiquity.

Dimensions L 12.5 x W 7.5 cm

Southern Europe



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