Roman Terracotta Oil Lamp with a Peacock


A Roman terracotta oil lamp with a volute nozzle and a concave, decorated discuss. Within its centre is a large bird, a peacock with its tail feathers furled.  The bird can be defined as a peacock due to the artist’s attempt to create the eyespots so familiar to this birds plumage.

This discus is surrounded by three deeply incised concentric circles. The base is marked also with an incised circle. There is also a makers mark to the reverse, consisting of a single indented stroke.

Date: Circa 1st century AD
Provenance: From the collection of Arno Jumpertz, Leverkusen, Germany, 1924-1984. Much of the collection was exhibited at Neus museum, 1985.
Condition: Very fine. Burn mark to the nozzle and some encrustation.


SKU: AH-682 Category: Tag:

The peacock was often associated with the Roman goddess Juno, considered her sacred bird. It was said that the queen of the Roman gods flew across the skies in a peacock driven chariot. There are various associations between the deity and the bird, including the myth by Ovid in Metamorphoses, Book 1. The myth recounts that, Io daughter of Inachus, had fallen victim to Jupiter’s attentions. Trying to keep her safe, Jupiter turns Io into a white heifer of the purest form. Juno, seeing the wondrous and beautiful animal claimed it for herself. She placed it under the protection of Argus Panoptes (‘All Seeing’), the many-eyed giant. In his efforts to claim Io back, Jupiter sent the messenger god Mercury to retrieve her. Mercury lulls Argus asleep with his music and kills the giant, stealing Io away. In response Juno places the many eyes of the fallen giant upon her favourite bird, the peacock, as commemoration.

The incuse mark on the reverse has been used on other lamps, dated to the 1st century and a specific workshop, operating in both Italy and North Africa.

For more information about the meanings of animals in Roman art, see our relevant blog post: Animal Symbolism in Roman Art.

Weight 44.5 g
Dimensions L 9.9 x W 6.8 x H 2.8 cm

Pottery and Porcelain


Roman Mythology