A Roman creamware oil lamp with rosette design on the tondo. Circa 1st century AD or later?
This lamp came with the A.P. Fowler collection of mostly bronzes, but also other items collected on his travels including fauna. The paper bag contains pieces of pumice and small bits of unrecognisable bronze. Items reputedly from Pompeii and other Grand Tour sites turn up from time to time in old collections, like the bowls auctioned last year. I think some pieces from that Scottish collection were picked up by a local musuem which is always good to see items return to where they originated. As for this lamp, it may have come from Pompeii, however, it could just as easily have come from other sites on his travels or indeed been purchased elswhere. Unfortunately once collectors pass away and their collections are dispersed, you cannot be sure where items where obtained, or indeed rely on written records, so I can't be sure, but it's a nice thought. Some things however, can be deduced which support this origin. Unlike the majority of complete lamps that have survived in burial contexts, this example bears all the halmarks of regular use over time and with ancient burning at the nozzle. Also, rosette design lamps tend to be an earlier type. Anyway, good provenance with this one which will be an interesting aquisition for a collector, museum or gallery.
Condition: Good. Surface wear but no damage or restoration.
Dimensions: 9.5cm x 6cm.
Provenance: From the private collection of the late A.P. Fowler of Wimbledon, London, UK; thence by descent to his grandson and auctioned in 2020. The collection includes hand-written records showing Mr Fowler was in Italy during the early spring of 1951 and visited sites including Pompeii, Herculaneum and Palermo in Sicily.
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Roman oil lamps were made from fired clay, but are also found in bronze and even iron. However, it was the clay lamps, cheap to produce, that became the mainstay of everyday lighting in the Roman world. They were made using a two-part mould. Wet clay was pressed into each half of the mould and the two halves joined together. They were removed from their moulds while still soft, and the oil-hole and wick-holes pierced by hand. Finally, the lamp was fired in a kiln.
Roman oil lamps were decorated with almost every depiction imaginable, including gods, animals and erotic scenes. Roman oil lamps are one of the most diverse and popular antiquities for sale to collectors.
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