Object Description

A Roman terracotta oil lamp featuring a short canal nozzle with elaborate scrolled volutes, a concave discus and one filling hole. The discus of the lamp is decorated with a marine scene, depicting a fish, possibly a bream or a snapper, swimming left and a squid swimming right. Three concentric rings frame the scene. This lamp is of Loeschcke type I, which is characterised by a circular body and fairly wide nozzle with obtuse-angle tip, flanked by two volutes.

Created in the Early Augustan period, the type lasted until the end of the Flavian period. Loeschcke type I, first developed in Italy, became extremely popular and was diffused to all parts of the Roman Empire through either export or local imitation. Artificial light was common throughout the Roman Empire, and pottery oil lamps offered an alternative to candle light. Candles, made from beeswax or tallow, were cheaper to buy but do not survive as well. Pottery lamps functioned by adding oil through the central hole, and burning a wick placed into the nozzle area. Wicks were commonly made from pieces of linen, but could also be made from flax or papyrus.

Reference: Walters, H. B., 1914, Catalogue of the Greek and Roman Lamps in the British Museum, p. 91, no. 599.
For the shape: Christie’s sale 9482, lot 110.

Period: 1st – 2nd century AD

Object Condition

Very fine, intact, with minor crazing and encrustations over the whole. On the lamp’s foot there are some accretions and discolouration from firing process. Minor chip on the back of the lamp below the rim.

Object Classification

  • material
  • dimensions
    W:9.5 x H:2.5 centimeters
  • diameter
    6.5 centimeters

Dealer Opening Times

By appointment only.

Dealer Contact

+44 (0)208 364 4565

Dealer Location

The Gallery
Trent Park Equestrian Centre
Eastpole Farm House, Bramley Road
Oakwood, N14 4UW, United Kingdom


St James's Ancient Art
10 Charles II Street, Ground Floor
St James