Roman Oil Lamp with Cupid on a Dolphin

£ 600.00

A finely modelled Ancient Roman terracotta oil lamp featuring a short canal nozzle, one filling hole to the discus and a small-applied loop handle. The discus is decorated with the depiction of a winged Cupid playing a double flute while riding a dolphin. The lamp is marked on the underside with the maker’s mark, M NOV I V S TI. This refers to the tripartite name of the Justus family, M. Novius Justus, who were a prominent family of lamp-makers in the 1st and 2nd centuries. Large numbers of lamps bearing this signature have been found in North Africa, with the workshop believed to have been situated in El Djem, Tunisia. Maker’s marks and stamps decline in use from the third quarter of the 2nd century.

Date: Circa 1st-3rd Century AD
Provenance: From the collection of Arno Jumpertz, Leverkusen, Germany, 1924-1984. Much of the collection was exhibited at the Neus Museum, 1985.
Condition: Fine, complete and intact with signs of aging to the surface.


Product Code: RES-54
Category: Tags: ,

The motif of Eros riding a dolphin is known in Greek art from the middle of the 6th century BC, especially in ceramics and decorative arts, as an allegory of love. Eros riding a dolphin doesn’t seem to be connected to a specific myth and it appears to have been used only for decorative purposes. In Ancient Greek and Roman culture and mythology dolphins were associated with the sea and with the sphere of sensual love, bearing an amatory symbolism. Because of the assonance between the ancient Greek word delphis (δελφίς), meaning dolphin, and the word delphus (δελφύς), meaning womb, dolphins were considered animals sacred to Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of love, fertility and desire.

To discover more about Eros’ iconography in Antiquity, please visit our relevant blog post: Eros’ Iconography in Classical Times.

Dimensions L 10 cm

Southern Europe



Roman Mythology


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