Across the Roman Empire, 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, the variation in decoration increased. Common decorative themes depicted on the discus included entertainment scenes (such as gladiators in combat), common myths and deities, and even 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. The Broneer type are closely connected to Greek mainland manufacturing and were exported extensively with different variations. The most recognisable feature is the flat shoulder which may be plain or display designs such as ovolos. The three masks, as seen on this fine example, along with other faces were a common attribute of Corinthian lamps.
Ancient Roman Terracotta Oil Lamp with Faces
An Ancient roman terracotta oil lamp featuring a circular body with a flat shoulder, a raised ridge surrounds the discuss separating the shoulder. A ring handle is attached to the top of the lamp and displays a single incised groove. The discuss is adorned with three identical theatre masks evenly dispersed over the upper half. The filling hole is at the centre framed by two concentric circles and a small air hole is visible at the lower section of the discuss. The base is flat with one incised circle framing the makers mark.
This oil lamp resembles Loeschcke type VIII, Broneer XXVII C.
Provenance: From a specialist collection of Roman oil lamps formed by Robertson Brockie (deceased), all acquired before 2008 from a central London ADA gallery; Southport Lancashire.
Condition: Excellent condition, some earthly encrustation to the surface.