Roman Terracotta Oil Lamp with Cupid and Psyche


An ancient Roman terracotta oil lamp featuring a decorated circular body shape with rounded shoulders. The nozzle is long and rounded, with two volutes at each side. The discus of the lamp is concaved, with two concentric circles surrounding the winged figures of Cupid and Psyche embracing. Cupid is depicted frontal and winged, his body nude. Psyche appears with her back to us, her upper torso nude, whilst a folded garment hangs beneath the curve of her bottom. There is one filling hole to the left of the figures. The reverse of the lamp is incised with a vertical linear stamp, the workshop mark.

Date: Circa AD 69 - 117
Provenance: Ex S.M. London collection, 1970-2000s by descent.
Condition: Fine, signs of ageing and earthly encrustations on the surface.

In stock

SKU: AH-909 Category: Tags: ,

The narrative of Cupid and Psyche is preserved in the Metamorphoses of Apuleius, written in the 2nd century AD, but iconographic evidence suggests that Cupid and Psyche were depicted together as early as the 4th century BC. In mythology, Psyche is a beautiful mortal who attracts the jealousy of Venus. In an attempt to thwart her chances of a good marriage, Venus sends her son Cupid to disrupt any potential courtships. However, this plan backfires, and Cupid falls in love with Psyche. Cupid attempts to hide from Pysche, but after hot wax spills from her oil lamp, her lover is revealed as Cupid. As punishment, Venus sets Pysche tasks to complete, but Jupiter takes pity on Cupid and arranges for Cupid and Psyche to be married. In Latin, Psyche’s name is Anima, meaning life or life force. Unsurprising, this fairytale love story inspired many future generations, and the figures of Cupid and Psyche reoccur frequently in Renaissance, Pre-Raphealite, and Neoclassical movements.

The workshop mark to the reverse is most likely an incised I and similar marks have been attributed to a North African workshop, dating to the Flavian to Trajanic period.

Weight 58.77 g
Dimensions L 9.6 x W 6.9 x H 2.3 cm

Pottery and Porcelain


Roman Mythology


Reference: For a similar example, please see: The J. Paul Getty Museum, California, item, 83.AQ.377.102

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