Early Islamic oil lamps, such as this fine example, have mostly been recovered in Khirbet el-Mefjer, near Jericho. They appeared at the beginning of the 7th century AD and became widespread during the Umyyad period (7th – 8th century AD), although examples have been found dating to the 11th century AD. This particular type, with a conical handle, is the earlier version and reaches its popularity in the 8th century. The form and decoration show continuation from late Byzantine examples, fused with the emerging Islamic local styles. Running animals, ornate birds, geometric patterns and foliage were all common design themes and human representation is markedly absent. Inscriptions are also common and appear in both Greek and Arabic, showing the fusion of both Christian and Muslim iconography. The animals seen here are ambiguous. They appear horned, with elongated, feline-like bodies and long tails and most likely represent a mythical animal, which was common.
Early Islamic Terracotta Oil Lamp with Animals
An Early Islamic terracotta oil lamp featuring a pointed oval body and a prominent conical handle. To the top, the vessel displays a large filling-hole with a pronounced rim. This is surrounded by an additional ridge which extends onto the nozzle and around the wick-hole, forming a straight channel decorated with a linear pattern, in relief. The shoulders are richly decorated with a symmetrical pattern of running animals, in a ‘horror vacui’ fashion typical of Early Islamic lamps. ‘Horror vacui’ translates loosely from latin as a fear of empty spaces. The animals depicted here are ambiguous but could portray a hunt scene between a zebu and a wild feline. The reverse remains unadorned, with the exception of a circular base ring forming an eight-spoked wheel. The lamp is un-slipped.
Provenance: From a private Preston, Lancashire collection, RB, who amassed a collection of over 200 lamps, the majority acquired via a London A.D.A member gallery.
Condition: Fine condition, with some signs of ageing to the surface.Slight surface abrasion to the handle.