I attended a lovely reception last night (April 20) at the University of North Carolina Wilmington’s Randall Library for the opening of “Illumination,” a one month show focusing on research conducted by UNCW Art History students, under the guidance of Professor Nick Hudson, on a group of 100 ancient oil lamps and pottery vessels from the Levant. The lamps and vessels were a gift I arranged for one of my long term clients to make, and I worked closely with Prof. Hudson on completing this gift. The show continues through May 30 and is well worth a visit if you are in Wilmington. Here are a few images.
Our object of the week is an unusual type of pottery oil lamp dating from the later years of the Roman Empire, not long before the full transition of the Empire’s eastern half to what we now call the Byzantine Empire. This general type of pottery lamp seems to have been manufactured at workshops in northern Syria, and possibly further south into what is now Lebanon, over a period of nearly 200 years. Our example seems to date to the earliest phase of production and features some quite unusual characteristics, outlined below.
The most obvious and uncommon aspect of this lamp is the long, pointed handle. Most late Roman and early Byzantine period lamps manufactured in the Near East feature short handles of spike or thumb shape. The long, rather delicate form of this lamp’s handle is both aesthetically pleasing and uncommon.
The other interesting aspect of this lamp is its combination of decorative elements. The raised pellets around the central fill hole were a common theme on this broad category of lamps over a long period. But the cross-like image in low relief at the rear of the lamp, and continuing upward onto the handle, is puzzling. At first glance, this appears to be a Patriarchal cross, a type featuring two cross bars over the central vertical bar. But this type of cross did not appear in any numbers until the 9th and 10th Centuries in the Byzantine Empire. An alternative explanation might be that this was an attempt to depict the so-called “Tau” cross, the simple T-shaped crosses on which criminals were sometimes executed in the Roman Empire. But the image is still vague. In our opinion, any attempt to assign this cross-like relief image to a specific type of Christian iconography is no more than guess work.
Just as baffling is the maker’s mark or decorative element on the lamp’s flat base, shown below. Connected to a stylized palm frond that runs the length of the nozzle’s underside is a radiating sixteen pointed element set inside concentric raised circles with simple hatching between them. At first glance, this starburst design looks for all the world like the Union Jack on flags from Great Britain. But closer inspection shows another set of eight spokes in much lower relief between the eight main spokes. Is this a maker’s mark or is it simply a pleasant design? And in either case, does it carry any early Christian symbolism, as it resembles both a cross and a Chi-Rho symbol or Christogram?
In view of the date at which this piece was made, around 400 AD, and the combination of decorative elements (a possible cross on the upper surface, a palm frond – an image re-purposed from Pagan antiquity – and the cross-like design on the base,) it seems most likely that this lamp was made for sale to Christian customers. However, it is worth noting that at least in the Levantine region, pottery lamp makers did not seem to favor a specific category of client. Whether Christian, Jewish, Samaritan or Pagan, lamp makers seem to have created products for all types of customers and with all types of imagery.
This lamp is available in our eBay store here – http://www.ebay.com/itm/Late-Roman-Pottery-Oil-Lamp-AD-400-Holy-Land-/132102302002?hash=item1ec1e92932:g:BMoAAOSwCGVX8ENH
and in our Etsy store here – https://www.etsy.com/listing/292086487/late-roman-pottery-oil-lamp-ad-400-holy?ref=shop_home_active_11
Hello Clio Customers, Friends and Fans:
We are offering a huge 25% off of everything in our eBay store, including antiquities, ancient coins and books, through January 31. It’s been years since we’ve offered such a large discount, so please take a look. Pay the listed price and your 25% will be promptly refunded to you via PayPal. This offer is for our eBay store only, not our other selling platforms. There are currently 82 items listed, ranging in price from $12 to $450.
Find us on eBay here – http://www.ebay.com/usr/clioantiquities
Thanks for looking and best wishes.
Christof M. Maupin
Clio Ancient Art and Antiquities
Wilmington, NC 28403
We’ve created a customer Coupon for use in our Etsy store. Receive 15% off every item over $25 between now and January, 2017.
Use coupon code JAN20172 at checkout to receive your discount!
And, if you make a purchase between now and January 31 you’ll also receive an email from Etsy with another discount coupon for use in our shop good for 15% off a future purchase, valid through June 30, 2017.
Visit our Etsy shop at: https://www.etsy.com/your/shops/ClioAncientArt
The images below represent a good sample of the many ancient Egyptian, Greek, Roman, Byzantine, early Islamic and other Mediterranean and related antiquities and ancient coins sold by Clio Ancient Art during 2016. Some of our regular customers reading this blog entry might recognize pieces they now own. As always we have many more items available in our online stores:
And don’t forget our Amazon book store, with many excellent and hard to find antiquities related titles: www.amazon.com/shops/ClioAncientArt
We’ve prepared a brief video on our Instagram account explaining the reasons why there is so much variation in price among different types of ancient pottery oil lamps. We hope you’ll find it useful.
As 2016 nears it’s end, we are proud to share with you that Clio Ancient Art facilitated gifts of ancient pottery oil lamps and vessels from one of our clients to 3 colleges and universities:
* University of Missouri at Kansas City Department of Classical Studies
* University of North Carolina at Wilmington Department of Art and Art History
* Cape Fear Community College Humanities and Fine Arts Department.
In each case the gift consisted of 100 pottery lamps and vessels, mainly from the Eastern Mediterranean, ranging in date from the Late Hellenistic through Roman, Byzantine and early Islamic periods. All were from a private collection assembled in the Middle East in the mid-1960s.
Clio Ancient Art is now on Instagram! We’ll be posting featured antiquities, artifacts, ancient coins and related items, along with images from our photo archive that help place those objects in context. Follow us here – https://www.instagram.com/clioancientantiquities/
Clio Ancient Art and Antiquities has much to offer as we enter the holiday season. With up to 100 antiquities, artifacts, ancient coins, books about antiquities and related art now available from ancient Rome, Greece, Egypt, Cyprus and the Holy Land, you are sure to find a unique gift for that collector, history buff or other special someone on your list.
If you are thinking ahead to gift giving for the holidays, why not consider a unique ancient oil lamp from our selection. We currently have 25 ancient lamps available, ranging from the Greek Hellenistic period through the Roman Empire, Byzantine Empire and early Islamic periods. Many of our ancient lamps come from the Holy Land, sacred to all three ancient western faiths, with many dating to the early years of Christianity. Others, with their fine ceramic bodies, decorated discus and red slip, date to the high point of the Roman Empire and evoke images of the splendor of ancient Rome. Prices range from as little as $60 up to about $400. You may find them here on our Etsy page – Clio Ancient Art: Ancient Oil Lamps
We currently have 108 items on our Etsy site, including ancient glass, pottery, metalwork and other materials, spanning many centuries, from ancient Egypt, Greece, Rome, Byzantium, the Near East and more. Find them all here – Clio Ancient Art on Etsy