Early Byzantine Bronze Oil Lamp with Shell Motif

£ 1,850.00

An extremely well preserved early Byzantine bronze oil lamp featuring a large cross handle. The vessel features a carinated body, which tapers into a rounded, thick-rimmed nozzle. There is a large filling hole to the centre of the body, set with a lid, shaped into a scallop shell. The lid is hinged at the top and still functions. Forming the base of the lid is a large cross-shaped, looped handle. The cross has gently flaring arms and is decorated along its entirety with incised concentric circle-and-dot motifs. The large loop at the rear of the lamp would have been used for holding. There is an additional plinth support, attached from the top of the cross to the loop, to counteract the weight of the cross. Inside the large body is a rising channel, which would have been used to support the wick. Such lamps would have been used either in the hand or with an additional stand. The lack of chain and hanging loop means this lamp was not suspended.

Date: Circa 6th - 7th century AD
Provenance: Ex private German collection, acquired 1990s, German Art Market.
Condition: Extremely fine, complete and intact. An excellent example with beautiful green patination to the surface.
Product Code: BS-41
Categories: , Tags: ,

Oil lamps in antiquity were made from a variety of materials, including gold, silver, lead, bronze, and ceramic. During the Roman Empire, an oil 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. Bronze lamps were used from the earliest use of the lamp, from the 9th century BC up until the 7th century AD. Unlike their terracotta counterparts, which were used by all social classes, bronze lamps were reserved for the elite and wealthier classes. Byzantine lamps were a continuation of Roman lamps, with their decorative elements changing slightly to accommodate the rise of Christianity and the increased use of the lamp within the Byzantine church. Bronze lamp production seems to have halted after the Arab invasion in the 7th century.

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

Weight 278.4 g
Dimensions L 12.7 x W 5.6 x H 10 cm

North Africa, Southern Europe



Reference: For similar: The British Museum, London, item OA.852

You may also like…