Ancient Roman Terracotta Oil Lamp with Figure Leaning on a Herm


An Ancient Roman terracotta oil lamp, comprising of a concave discus framed by three concentric circles. The nozzle is wide and angular, flanked by two volutes. Within the discus is a low-relief image of a male figure, reaching behind him for a bowl with his right hand whilst supporting himself with his left hand, on a herm pillar. The figure seems to be wearing a short, textured garment with a plain waistband. There is a filling hole to the right of the pillar. On the reverse of the lamp is the makers mark framed by a single circle.

The characteristics of this oil lamp align most with the ‘Loeschcke Type I B – Bailey Type A, Group iii’.

Date: Circa 1st - 2nd Century AD
Provenance: Acquired on the European art market 1980's. English private collection.
Condition: Excellent Condition.


SKU: MJ-41 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. 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.  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, due to its cheap and efficient nature.

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


Weight 79.4 g
Dimensions L 10.6 x W 7.7 x H 2.7 cm

Pottery and Porcelain


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