Roman Terracotta Oil Lamp With Actor’s Mask

£ 525.00

A very fine and spectacularly moulded Roman red terracotta oil lamp featuring a beautifully ornate discus in high relief. The body of the lamp is ovular and features a round discus enclosed by a raised ridge which continues into a D shape around a circular nozzle hole. Each shoulder of the lamp is decorated with a triangular lug on top. The discus bears two filling holes, one on either side of the lamp’s iconography, which displays an actor’s mask featuring a grotesquely smiling face and long hair, placed on a subtly raised circular platform. The body of the lamp features a smooth finish. The name of the maker, FORTIS, is marked on the lamp’s base. This was a very prominent lamp factory during the 1st century AD, located in the Italian city of Modena. The lamp is classified as the Loeschcke X type.

Date: Circa 1st-2nd century AD
Provenance: Ex property of deceased owner, 1980s.
Condition: Very fine, mild wear due to natural ageing. The nozzle features a professionally restored section.


Product Code: RES-175
Category: Tag:

The Roman oil lamp, a product almost unparalleled in its distribution throughout the empire, developed towards the end of the Hellenistic period and was to keep its general shape longer than any other item of pottery throughout the Mediterranean. The vast trade networks set up with the expansion of the Roman empire allowed for this item to be spread across Europe, Eastern Asia and Northern Africa. Oil lamps were used by the Romans for mainly three reasons; to light private and public spaces, to give as offerings in temples to the gods and to be placed within a grave or funerary context. As well as linear, geometric and circular designs, favourite subjects for decoration of oil lamps included gods and mythological scenes, scenes from everyday life, gladiatorial depictions, drawings relating to entertainment and theatre, and various animals, fish and birds.

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

Dimensions L 10.5 x W 7.3 cm

Southern Europe



Reference: For a similar item, British Museum, Museum Number 1904,0204.450.

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