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Identification and Creation
Object Number
1920.44.181
Title
Lamp
Classification
Lighting Devices
Work Type
lighting device
Date
2nd century BCE
Places
Creation Place: Ancient & Byzantine World
Period
Hellenistic period
Culture
Hellenistic
Persistent Link
https://hvrd.art/o/303664
Physical Descriptions
Medium
Copper alloy
Technique
Cast, lost-wax process
Dimensions
2.7 x 5.5 x 8.6 cm (1 1/16 x 2 1/8 x 3 3/8 in.)
Technical Details

Technical Observations: Six of the seven lamps (1920.44.181, 1965.87, 1977.216.3406, 1977.216.3407, 1977.216.3423, 1978.495.32, and 1992.256.93) have mostly green patinas. 1977.216.3407 is mostly brown and black with areas of dark green. 1977.216.3423 has a large area of blue. 1978.495.32 and 1920.44.181 are more mineralized, and large lumps of raised corrosion products obscure the finer details of their surfaces. 1920.44.181 has lost the tip of its spout and much of its handle due to its fragile, mineralized condition.

All of the lamps except 1977.216.3406 were cast, presumably using a lost-wax technique. The interior surfaces generally conform to the exterior profiles, including the small feet, and it is likely that molds were used to form the wax models of the main portions of these lamps. The perfectly circular central elements may be the result of using a wheel to create the original models from which the wax casting molds were made. These shapes were then altered manually to form the spouts and decorative elements. The handles were probably added manually to the cast-wax body models. The rather substantial handle of 1965.87 could easily have been molded at the same time as the body of the lamp, although there is no indentation in the interior to prove this. The separately cast lid on this lamp is intact and held in place with an oversized—but seemingly original—copper alloy pin.

The bowl section of 1977.216.3406 is so thin and its interior surface is so smooth that it appears to have been raised rather than cast. Its thickness varies between 0.5 and 1.0 mm. An x-radiograph of the lamp reveals distinct hammer marks, which confirm that the surface was raised. The cast base is attached with lead solder. Its shape is perfectly circular, implying that its model was turned on a wheel. A projecting rim at the bottom of the base indicates that it was attached to a larger base section or mount. Solder is also present there and at a spot at the back of the lamp, where a handle had been attached but is now lost.

The exterior surface of 1920.44.181 has elongated fiber-shaped carbon inclusions embedded in its corrosion products. All of the lamps, except 1977.216.3406, appear to have oil residues mixed with accretions and corrosion products in their interiors.


Henry Lie (submitted 2001)

Provenance
Miss Elizabeth Gaskell Norton, Boston, MA and Miss Margaret Norton, Cambridge, MA (by 1920), gift; to the Fogg Art Museum, 1920.

Note: The Misses Norton were daughters of Charles Elliot Norton (1827-1908).
Acquisition and Rights
Credit Line
Harvard Art Museums/Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Gift of the Misses Norton
Accession Year
1920
Object Number
1920.44.181
Division
Asian and Mediterranean Art
Contact
am_asianmediterranean@harvard.edu
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Descriptions

Published Catalogue Text: Ancient Mediterranean and Near Eastern Bronzes at the Harvard Art Museums
Watch-shaped lamps such as this one have been called “Ephesus lamps” after the many terracotta examples excavated at Ephesus, Sardis, and other sites in Asia Minor and Greece (1). The reservoir is round, with a round pour hole (1.12 cm in diameter) defined by a raised rim. Raised lines extend from the top of the reservoir to either side of the base of the long nozzle. The tip of the nozzle is missing, as is an area at the back. Ear-like suspension rings protrude from either side; one is open, the other is filled with corrosion or metal. The lamp rests on a low (0.45 cm high) ring foot. The lump of corrosion near the handle stub probably conceals hinge tabs for a lid that may have been in the shape of a shell (2). The reservoir is filled with copper alloy, indicating that the piece is a failed cast (3).

NOTES:

1. For the type, see D. M. Bailey, A Catalogue of Lamps in the British Museum 4: Lamps of Metal and Stone and Lampstands (London, 1996) 7. An almost identical lamp is published in R. Rosenthal and R. Sivan, Ancient Lamps in the Schloessinger Collection, Qedem 8 (Jerusalem, 1978) 156, no. 644.

2. See Bailey 1996 (supra 1) nos. Q3543 and Q3544; and J. W. Hayes, Greek, Roman, and Related Metalware in the Royal Ontario Museum: A Catalogue (Toronto, 1984) 129-30, nos. 200-201.

3. H. Williams, pers. comm., Nov. 15, 2002. Williams also reported that a similar miscast, comparable to Howland type 25a, was excavated at Gordion (unpublished).


Jane Ayer Scott

Subjects and Contexts

Ancient Bronzes

Roman Domestic Art

This record has been reviewed by the curatorial staff but may be incomplete. Our records are frequently revised and enhanced. For more information please contact the Division of Asian and Mediterranean Art at am_asianmediterranean@harvard.edu