Roman Terracotta ‘Plastic’ Oil Lamp of a Goddess

£ 850.00

A Roman, moulded, terracotta ‘plastic’ lamp of a standing woman. The unusual lamp features a columnar projection that curves at the top into the elegant head of a swan. A natural hole formed between the curve of the swan’s neck acts as a suspension hole. The base of the column rests on a small chamber, which would have been used to house the oil. The chamber ends with a thick-set burn hole and rests on a flattened base. To the right of the column stands an elegantly, draped female figure, her right arm raised and leaning against the supporting pillar. Her clothing is distinct, with a flowing peplos covering her body, the rippling fabric indicated through the use of incised linear lines. On her head she wears a conical cap, possibly identifiying the figure as Bendis, a Thracian goddess associated with hunting and the moon.

Date: Circa 2nd century AD
Provenance: Property of a London Ancient Art gallery; acquired on the European Art market; ex WD Collection (1895-1973), Rhineland. In Germany before 1960.
Condition: Very fine. Some wear consistant with age. Burn marks to the burn hole.
Product Code: RES-218
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‘Plastic’ oil lamps were figurine types which first appeared in the Hellenistic period. They grew in popularity in the 1st – 2nd century AD, especially amongst the Egyptian and Italian workshops. They grew out of fashion in the 4th century with the emergence and rise of Christianity and the dissolvent of idolatry worship. These moldmade figures, were considered the luxury items for the poorer classes, used as votive offerings, as statues in the home and even as toys for children. Some were created to stand, with a small chamber for oil a simple wooden wick, whilst others were designed to hang.

Bendis was a Thracian goddess associated with hunting and the moon. She was often dressed in a Phrygian cap and held either a spear or torch, as she was associated with the light of the moon. She is often associated with Artemis and Hekate, both hunting and moon goddesses but remains distinct. Her worship spread into Attica from Thrace and she gained popularity in the 5th and 4th century BC. It was also believed that Bendis may have been one of seven daughter’s of Zeus who were turned into swans.

To discover more on oil lamps, visit our blog post: Oil Lamps in Antiquity

Weight 300.4 g
Dimensions W 6.8 x H 18 cm



Southern Europe

Reference: For similar: The J. Paul Getty Museum, item 83.AQ.377.543

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