Byzantine Terracotta Oil Lamp with Animals

£ 150.00

A Byzantine pale terracotta oil lamp featuring an elongated oval body and a large filling hole with a thickened rim. A vestigial knob handle is placed at the top of the body and a pronounced ridge connects the filling hole to the tapering nozzle. Decorated in high relief, there are a number of animals and suspended dots on the sides, a leaping feline and a rooster amongst the most recognizable. The number and variety of the highly stylized animals makes for a very joyful, beautiful example of oil lamp. There is a small base ring to the reverse, where the oil lamp sits.

Date: Circa 7th - 10th century AD
Provenance: Ex major S.M., London, Collection 1970-2010.
Condition: Fine. Small dents and chips, details a little worn. A stable crack to the side, please see pictures.


Product Code: BS-25
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 9.5 x W 6 cm

Southern Europe



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