Ancient Roman Terracotta Erotic Oil Lamp

£ 1,950.00

A Roman terracotta oil lamp with a decorated concave discus and a ring handle with two grooves on the upper part of the lamp. Within its centre is a concave discus, decorated with an heterosexual, erotic scene. It depicts a woman, seen lying on a bed, her torso and back raised and supported by the oppulent bed. Her male companion is situated between her legs, resting on his knees. He grasps both of the women’s legs, underneath her bent knees,to support his weight. He leans forward, into her embrace, depicted entwined in a kiss. The woman’s left arm grasps the back of the man’s head, as their eyes lock. For such a small surface, the scene is richly decorated and clear. The detailing can be seen in the lavish drapery of the bed clothes and the elegant chignon of the lady’s hair. Surrounding the discus is a circular narrow band, marked by two grooves and intercepted by rectangular panels at each side. A band of ovolos decorates the flat shoulders. The nozzle is  kite shaped, merging into the band around the discus, and rounded at the base. The lamp sits on a flat base, marked off by a single, circular groove. Within the circle is an incuse maker’s mark, written in Greek letters. The name is not fully decipherable but appears to begin: ΓΑΛΗΝ[…]. This lamp is categorised as type Broneer XXVII C, characterised by the flat shoulders, ovolo decoration, kite-shaped nozzle and grooved handle.

Date: Circa late 2nd - 3rd Century AD
Provenance: Ex private Swiss collection, acquired after 1976.
Condition: Excellent. Very clear discus and good colouring. Burn marks to the nozzle.
Product Code: RES-236
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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. During the Roman Empire, it became commonplace to use lamps in funeral ceremonies and for public purposes. The vast trade networks set with the expansion of the Roman Empire allowed this item to be spread across Europe, Eastern Asia and Northern Africa, which led to the development of several provincial variations.

Erotic scenes were an exceedingly popular depiction on oil lamps, making up the largest repertoire. Scenes such as this, with the female reclining were common, along with a variety of other heterosexual scenes. Most scenes are heterosexual in nature, but some lamps also depict more vivid situations. It was not uncommon to see homosexual interaction depicted, scenarios between dwarf entertainers and bestiality.

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

Weight 52.35 g
Dimensions L 10.2 x W 8 x H 4.5 cm



Southern Europe

Reference: For similar lamp with erotic scene: The J. Paul Getty Museum, USA, item 83.AQ.377.536247

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