Roman Terracotta Oil Lamp with Erotic Scene


An ancient Roman, terracotta, oil lamp, featuring a decorated concave discuss and a rounded volute nozzle. The discuss depicts an erotic scene between a man and a woman, lying on a bed. The woman is depicted reclining on her back, slightly propped up by her left arm, her right arm behind her shoulder. The man is kneeling in front of her, holding her left leg. Surrounding the discus is a single incised circle. The lamp’s two, large volutes are placed between the discuss and nozzle. The reverse features a simple base ring with the maker’s mark MVNTREPT in the middle. This lamp belongs to the Loeschcke type IV, characterised by rounded shoulders and nozzle. Dates for this style of lamp are given from the reign of Vespasian, circa AD 69, to Hadrian, circa AD 138.

Date: Circa AD 90 - 140
Provenance: Madame Suzanne Gozlan then by descent. Madame Suzanne Gozlan (1921-2022), Doctor of History and Archaeology, professor at the Ecole Normale d'Instituteurs de Chartres and lecturer at the University of Paris, Sorbonne.
Condition: Very fine. Some wear to the discus but scene still clear.


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. It is thought that the Romans took the idea for lamps from the Greek colonies of Southern Italy. 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), common myths, and animals. Erotic scenes were an exceedingly popular depiction on oil lamps, making up the largest repertoire. Scenes such as this, with the female reclining were common, along with a variety of other heterosexual scenes. Most scenes are heterosexual in nature, but some lamps also depict homosexual interaction and scenarios between dwarf entertainers and women.

The maker’s mark on this lamp is an abbreviated form of the maker/workshop (L.)Mun(atius)Trept(us). References to this workshop show an Italic base, with exports across Western Europe and North Africa. Dates for the workshop activity are given as circa AD 90-140, which correlates also to the dating provided by the lamp’s form.

To discover more about oil lamps in Antiquity, please visit our relevant blog post: Lighting The Way.

Weight 80.1 g
Dimensions L 11 x W 7.7 x H 2.5 cm

Pottery and Porcelain


Reference: For a similar item, Princeton University Art Museum, item y1992-103

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