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Published Massive Roman Bronze Three-Nozzle Oil Lamp

Roman, later Imperial period, ca. 1st century CE. A large, beautiful bronze oil lamp cast via the lost wax (cire perdue) process and designed so that it could hang from the original chains attached to three suspension hooks, one above each of the three nozzles - or sit on its concave base. The scallop shell or spade-shaped nozzles are equidistantly placed around a central raised boss with three trios of perforations (to release air as the lamp burned) surrounding a central fill hole. Three chains rise from the loops fitted to the hooks and meet at a central suspension loop. On top, around the lamp's outer perimeter, is a raised decorative edge. A lamp like this, made of of bronze and with multiple nozzles which burned more fuel was more costly and likely served as a status symbol of a wealthy family. Size: 13" W x 17.25" H (33 cm x 43.8 cm)

Some scholars have noted that bronze lamps, with their increased cost over pottery lamps, were most likely a type of heirloom, and were reserved for the richest households. Scholars believe that such bronze lamps remained in a family for at least three generations as they were coveted costly luxuries. Although metal lamps had a longer lifespan than lamps made of other materials, they were often melted down and reworked into other pieces. So having a complete example like this is rare.

Published in Fortuna Fine Arts: Venerable Traditions, New York, 2007, #150. p. 94. Cf. Pompeii, inv. 3278, published in De Spagnolis, no. 12, pp. 26 and 38.

Condition: Small loss to rim and rectangular cut-out from bottom of one nozzle. In general, nicks to peripheries. Chains still there and serve well, so that the oil lamp may be suspended. Remarkable for its size and exceptional degree of preservation.

Provenance: private East Coast, USA collection; ex-William Froelich collection, New York, USA, acquired in the 1970s

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