A Roman terracotta oil lamp with a decorated concave discus. Within its centre is a crouching rabbit, or hare, its small rhomboid shaped face nibbling at a bunch of grapes. The fruit is flanked by large leaves and the swirling tendrils of the vine. The scene is surrounded by three concentric circles and the lamp has an angular voluted nozzle. The filling hole can be found towards the bottom of the discus. The reverse features a concentric circle marking a simple ring base. This lamp belongs to the Loeschcke type I B group, which is characterised by its lack of a handle, circular body, and wide angular nozzle flanked by two volutes.
Date: Circa 1st Century AD Provenance: Ex Ex London gallery 1980s. From the collection of a deceased Lancashire gentleman. Condition: Excellent. Very clear discus and good colouring. A few surface chips to the edge of the discus, consistent with age. Burn marks to the nozzle.
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.
The scene depicted here is of the most commonly seen which include rabbits. It was also popular across other artistic mediums; including frescoes and mosaics. Rabbits were owned as pets by rich Roman citizens, as well as being a source of food. Their fur was also used for clothing against the cold winters.