Roman, Imperial Period, ca. 2nd to 4th century CE. A fabulous mold-made terracotta oil-burning lamp depicting the bearded Olympian god Bacchus (Greek Dionysos or Dionysus) - god of wine, pleasure, ritual madness, ecstasy, and theatre - with expressive and finely-detailed facial features. Almond-shaped eyes with stylized pupils rest beneath bushy eyebrows and flank a projecting triangular nose, with ovoid ears framing his dramatic visage. An exaggerated mouth doubles as the vessel's wick spout from whence a bright flame would flicker, its upper rim a delicately-incised moustache, with a circular fill hole situated in the center of an arching brow line and node-shaped coiffure. A pierced suspension loop juts from his forehead, and a conical handle extends from the back of his head. A slightly-raised circular base provides stability for this incredible vessel! Size: 4.25" L (10.8 cm).
This example depicts a later portrayal of Bacchus, as it shows him without his full beard; in the 2nd century CE, Roman artists started depicting him as a youth, with a smooth face and light facial hair, if any. The cult of Bacchus was hugely popular amongst the Roman populace, signifying the freedom created by the expressive mediums of wine, music, and ecstatic dance. Romans knew the power of partying!
Provenance: private Orange County, California, USA collection, acquired before 2000
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Upper and lower halves repaired, with light restoration, resurfacing, and overpainting along break line. Expected surface wear commensurate with age, small chips to base, handle, and fill hole, minor hairline fissures along backside, with light fading to pigmentation, otherwise excellent. Great earthen deposits and chalky-white mineral deposits throughout.