Late Roman Terracotta Oil Lamp with Chi-Rho Monogram

£ 1,200.00

An extremely fine Late Roman terracotta oil lamp with striking relief decoration. The lamp consists of an elongated, oval body and a circular discus surrounded by a ridge, which continues around the large nozzle hole to form a broad channel. At the top, a solid blade-shaped handle flattened on both sides is attached. A circular ridge on the base extends in a straight line to the handle. On the discus, the main iconography is a beautifully moulded, beaded Chi-Rho monogram, flanked on either side by small filling holes. The christogram ends in a triangular palmette. The shoulder surrounding the discus bears a repeating pattern of concentric archways along with indented wheel motifs. The reverse features a simple ring base. This delicately rendered lamp was produced using a mould. This lamp belongs stylistically to a group of North African lamps produced in Terra Sigillata Africana (TSA), specifically type Atlante X, Hayes II A.

Date: Circa 5th – 6th Century AD.
Provenance: Ex SM collection, Isreal, acquired 1970s-2000s.
Condition: Extremely fine; small chip to the ridge, near the nozzle. Hairline crack to the discus. Handle has been restored professionally.
Product Code: RES-230
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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.

This style of oil lamp originated in North Africa, specifically Tunisia, but was broadly exported and then imitated all over the Roman Empire. The Chi-Rho motif here is one of the earliest forms of a Christogram, consisting of the first two capitalised letters of the Greek word for Christ (ΧΡΙΣΤΟΣ – CHRISTOS). This monogram was used frequently throughout the Late Roman Empire, found on everything from mosaics to signet rings.

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

Weight 174.6 g
Dimensions L 14.6 x W 8.2 cm



North Africa, Southern Europe

Reference: For a similar item, The Getty Museum, Registration number 83.AQ.377.269

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