The Collection of Lamps
This is an on-going collection and lamps will be added as funds and opportunity allow. It is hoped the collection may prove useful as a reference source for other enthusiasts.
As of March 2018 there were 131 lamps in the collection.
This section explains the terminology used for the classification of the lamps throughout this site.
Open Bowl and Saucer
Usually the earliest form of lamp and appearing most notably in the Levant and Egypt. These lamps were open and bowl-like. The earliest forms were impossible to distinguish from other household pottery. Later, many had a pinched rim to accommodate a wick and some had rudimentary handles. The dominant type, probably developed in the Near East, came to have a flat, saucer-like profile and a pronounced folded spout. Due to the simplicity of the form, they had a long life and were still being made when other more sophisticated styles were in vogue.
Simple wheel-turned lamps with open reservoirs. These lamps were almost always undecorated but some had fine slip coatings. At first open and flat in profile, they generally became more enclosed and taller as time passed. They were at their height from the end of the seventh up to the middle of the third century B.C.
Mould-made lamps, commonly with elongated nozzles and small filling holes. The sides of the lamp were usually highly decorated. Their hey-day was from the third to the end of the first century B.C.
The term neo-Hellenistic is used to refer to those lamps that perpetuated the Hellenistic style during the period otherwise dominated by the Roman Imperial lamp (see below). Such lamps most commonly occurred in areas with a strong local tradition of lamp making, such as Egypt and the Levant
Mould-made lamps with a large dished upper surface commonly called the discus. The discus, rather than the rim, became the main area for decoration. This style was influential throughout the Roman Empire from the first to the fourth century A.D. The decorative Roman Imperial lamp passed through various styles but the common denominator in all this variety was the prevalence of the discus.
The most notable exception to the above was those lamps that were produced mainly for commercial or military use. These tended to be much plainer in style but nonetheless generally had a large discus compared to the size of their rim. The most famous and prolific lamp of this type was the so-called factory lamp (firmalampen) of the first and second centuries A.D.
The term mid-Imperial is used to denote those lamps that formed the highpoint of the Roman Imperial style. Such lamps originated in Italy but were most prolific in the Roman provinces of Africa and Asia during the second and third centuries A.D.
The Roman Imperial style had run its course by the fourth century A.D. and lamp-producing countries began to show a divergence of styles more marked than previously. The Late Imperial label covers different styles in different countries, but it is intended to denote those lamps that had moved away from the Roman Imperial tradition. These lamps were to remain influential from the late fourth to the seventh centuries A.D. Many of these lamps, such as the African red slipware lamps, were exported and copied widely.
The Arab conquest of much of the eastern and African territories of the Roman Empire in the seventh century A.D. brought about changes to the style of many lamps. However, the distinction between the Late Imperial style and the Islamic style was not that dramatic in some areas. In the Levant, in particular, oriental decorative motifs had been popular for many generations and so the two styles merged almost seamlessly. Islamic lamps tended to be elongated, sometimes with large upright handles. Decorative features were usually stylised geometric or floral designs. Over time, many lamps developed a more jug-like appearance while thick glazes, rather than decorative designs, became common. Such lamps were still in fashion in the Middle Ages.
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