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HOME : Classical Antiquities : Bronze Oil Lamps : Roman Bronze Oil Lamp
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Roman Bronze Oil Lamp - X.0075
Origin: Mediterranean
Circa: 1 st Century AD
Dimensions: 5" (12.7cm) high x 3" (7.6cm) wide x 7.25" (18.4cm) depth
Collection: Classical
Medium: Bronze


Location: UAE
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Description
While literally thousands of terracotta oil lamps survive from the Roman era, their bronze counterparts are remarkably rare. An average Roman citizen would have had a few fragile terracotta lamps scattered about the house to provide light in the hours of night. Bronze lamps were the domain of the wealthy elite whose villas would have been decorated with durable bronze lamps displayed on elegant stands. Bronze oil lamps were inherently more expensive due to the high cost of refining and casting metal. While luxury items in their own time, bronze lamps were often melted down for their metal value in times of war, only increasing their scarcity today.

This striking bronze oil lamp features a theatrical mask decorating the end tip of the handle, with stylized waves of hair covering the brow and curly locks framing the sides of the face. There is a decorative palmette under the chin. In antiquity, the body would have been filled with an oil, be it olive, fish, or castor, whatever was most plentiful in the region, and a wick wound from fiber would have produced a gentle flame at the spout. Although a bit smelly and dirty, such a lamp could burn for up to ten hours in one filling, enough to last through the darkest night. We can picture this lamp illuminating an ancient temple, the light flickering against the columns, throwing shadows onto the ground. - (X.0075)

 

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