Mouldmade lamps were made in two halves, each of which comprised a layer of damp clay, impressed in a mould before the two halves of the mould were pressed together. Mouldmade lamps were preceded by wheelmade lamps, and did not start appearing until the beginning of the third century BC. This new method allowed for mass reproduction of oil lamps, as well as greater versatility in their size, shape, and decoration. The disadvantage, however, was that as the mould became old and worn, the resulting lamps were poorly-moulded and blurred, of which there are countless surviving examples. Surviving examples of lamp moulds, on the other hand, provide an invaluable indication for the location of lamp workshops.
Roman Clay Lamp Mould
This upper lamp mould is made from clay- a rarer choice of material than stone or plaster moulds. Its interior bears a negative impression of the corresponding part of the lamp, which had a raised rim round the central orifice; a globule on either side of the central orifice; and a semi-circular nozzle. The lamp did not have a handle or lateral projection. The absence of decoration on the lamp mould may suggest that it was impressed or incised by hand afterwards. The mould also features a flat resting-surface, and three keying lugs (though one has broken away) to match this mould to the corresponding lower lamp mould.
Provenance: Private Mayfair, London collection, SM.
Condition: Fine condition, though scratches and chips to the pottery have naturally collected over time. One of the three keying lugs has been lost, but the pottery is stable.