Roman Terracotta Oil Lamp with Hunt Scene


An early ancient Roman, terracotta, oil lamp, featuring a decorated concave discuss and a round-tipped volute nozzle. The discuss depicts a hunting scene between a lion and a mule. The lion is depicted with his face frontally, as his claws wrap around the mule underneath him. The beast’s tail is turned upwards. The helpless prey lies underneath, unable to escape. There is a small burn hole situated at the base of the scene. The discus is surrounded by a concentric circle. The lamp’s two volutes are placed between the discuss and nozzle. The reverse features one concentric circle, creating a simple base ring. Inside is a simple maker’s mark known as a ‘planta pedis’. This lamp belongs to the Loeschcke type IV, which is characterised by a narrow, rounded nozzle flanked by volute-spines, round shoulders and the absence of a handle.

Date: Circa 1st - 2nd century AD
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 loss of detailing to the discus but scene still visible. Some loss of glaze.

In stock

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. Pottery oil lamps could be made in three different ways: handmade, wheel made, or by mould. The use of the mould (which was made from clay or plaster) quickly became popular, because one mould could produce several lamps.

Scenes such as this, or with other victims of prey, were used regularly on lamps across the Empire. They were especially popular during the mid 1st – 2nd century AD. The scene was not only limited to discus decoration but extended to terra sigillata vessels and large-scale mosaics.

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

Weight 55.7 g
Dimensions L 9.2 x W 6.2 cm

Pottery and Porcelain


Reference: For similar: The J. Paul Getty Museum, item 83.AQ.377.62

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