Roman Oil Lamp with Maker’s Mark

£ 275.00

A finely decorated Ancient Roman pottery oil lamp, featuring a pierced, raised and rounded handle, a short canal nozzle and one filling hole. The discus displays the depiction of a flower, surrounded by two concentric circles. The flower features four petals. The lamp is marked to the underside with the maker’s mark, ‘MNOVIVST’. This is a well-known oil lamp manufacturer, Marcus Novius Justus, who operated a prolific workshop perhaps in the city of Thysdrus, modern El Jem, in what is now Tunisia in North Africa, during the 2nd Century AD. Pottery bearing this inscription has been recovered in Tunisia as well as in Italy and France.

Date: Circa 2nd Century AD
Provenance: From a specialist collection of Roman oil lamps formed by Roberton Brockie (deceased), all acquired before 2008 from a central London ADA gallery.
Condition: Very fine condition. Minor chipping.


Product Code: RES-159
Category: Tag:

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. It is thought that the Romans took the idea for lamps from the Greek colonies of Southern Italy. During the Roman Empire, it became commonplace to use lamps in funeral ceremonies and for public purposes. Over time, the manufacture of lamps increased, and so did the variation in decoration, which depended mainly on the shape and size of the lamp. Common decorative themes depicted on the discus were entertainment scenes, such as gladiators in combat, common myths, and animals. Pottery oil lamps could be made in three different ways: handmade, wheel made, or by mould. The use of the mould, which was made from clay or plaster, quickly became popular, because one mould could produce several lamps.

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

Dimensions L 10 x W 7.3 cm

North Africa