Ancient Roman Terracotta Oil Lamp with Erotic Scene


A Roman terracotta oil lamp featuring a large, rounded body with a short, rounded nozzle. The discus and the nozzle are separated by three lines interspersed by two dots. A pierced lug handle is placed at the rear of the lamp, decorated with two vertical grooves. The discus, framed by two circular grooves, presents an erotic scene between a man and a woman. The woman is depicted lying on a bed to right, and the man is kneeling behind her, holding up one leg by resting her foot on his shoulder. There is a filling hole to the lower right of the discus. To the reverse, the maker’s mark, AVF FRON below an ovolo, has been stamped on the base, which is marked by a simple circular groove.

Date: Circa AD 130-170
Provenance: Madame Suzanne Gozlan then by descent. Madame Suzanne Gozlan (1921-2022), Doctor of History and Archaeology, professor at the Ecole Normale d'Instituteurs de Chartres and lecturer at the University of Paris, Sorbonne.
Condition: Very fine. Some wear to the surface but scene still clear.

In stock

Erotic scenes were a popular decorative motif recovered in different Roma objects, such as intaglios, lamps and wall paintings. Erotic imaginary was deeply connected with Venus and her cult, hence the presence of the goddess on lamps of the same subject. Erotic scenes were not only associated with sexuality and pleasure, but also with the idea of luxury, wealth and elite status.

This type of lamp is known as Loeschcke VIII (Bussiére form D II 1), of which had many variants but generally characterized by a circular body and a short, rounded nozzle. Based on the nozzle type we can further identify it as Bussiére form 4b, due to the inclusion of straight lines and two dots, forming a trapezoidal shape. Lamps of this type were popular from the end of 1st century AD and spread all over the Roman Empire. The lamp can be dated further through the prominant maker’s mark. The marker’s mark AVF FRON refers to the name Aufidius Fronimus, a North African workshop active during the mid 2nd century, circa AD 130-170.

To discover more about oil lamps, please visit our relevant blog post: Lighting The Way.

Weight 60.6 g
Dimensions L 10.1 x W 7.0 x H 3.8 cm

Pottery and Porcelain


Reference: For a similar scene, The J. Paul Getty Museum, item 83.AQ.377.393

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