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. 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, popular myths, and domestic animals. Early Christian symbols, such as the Chi Rho, were also used as decorative motives, usually together with depictions of palmettes, palms’ or olives’ branches. Palms’ branches held also an important meaning in early Christian symbology, as they were associated with the entry of Jesus into Jerusalem, welcomed by the crowd waving palm branches (Gospel of John 12: 13-15). Oil lamps moulded in North Africa and referred to the type Atlante X, Hayes II A, are characterized by a fine clay, glossy bright orange slip, and finely executed decoration to the lamps’ discus and shoulders.
Roman Oil Lamp with Christ Monogram
An Ancient Roman bright red terracotta oil lamp, featuring a long canal nozzle, a concave discus with two filling holes, and a single moulded handle. The lamp’s shoulders are finely decorated with palm branches, while the discus holds the moulded depiction of the monogram Chi Rho, an early Christian symbol that was used as an abbreviation of the Greek word for Christ, ΧΡΙΣΤΟΣ. The lamp is a fine example of the so-called Christian lamps in Terra Sigillata Africana (TSA), and was moulded in the Roman provinces of North Africa, modern day central Tunisia. The lamp can be classified as type Atlante X, Hayes II A. The refilling hole situated to the left of the discus features fragment of the original wick.
Provenance: From the collection of Arno Jumpertz, Leverkusen, Germany, 1924-1984. Much of the collection was exhibited at the Neus Museum, 1985.
Condition: Extremely fine condition, complete and intact. Some earthly encrustations to the handle.