Late Roman to Early Byzantine, ca. 2nd to 4th century CE. A conical mold-blown glass form with a rounded bottom, a wide mouth, and a flat rim, all boasting beautiful amber hues with liberal areas of weathering film and iridescence, the surface adorned with three wheel-cut bands around its body. Archaeologists have discovered such forms in ancient tombs. Some historians believe that they were used as lamps for the deceased to carry with them to the next world. A quote from Prudentius poetically describes such lamps in actual use (see extended description below). Contributing to its beauty are gorgeous areas of coppery rose, periwinkle blue, lavendar, and rainbow iridescence - as well as earthen deposits resulting from thousands of years of graceful aging and exposure to the elements. Size: 4.5" in diameter x 3.625" H (11.4 cm x 9.2 cm)
This type of vessel was used in the late Roman to early Byzantine periods, designed to be filled with oil and placed into large metal fixtures. These fixtures contained multiple lamps and provided illumination in the same way that a candelabrum does today. The following eloquent quote from Prudentius captures the magical quality of a lamp like this example, "As for us, we pass the long night with pious gladness in festal congregations, in sleepless prayer we earnestly heap up petitions that will be granted, and on the altar raised up make offerings to God. The lamps gleam out, that hang by swaying cords from every panel of the roof, and the flame, fed by the oil on which it floats lazily, casts its light through clear glass. One would think the starry space stood over us, decked with the twin Bears, and that bright evening stars were everywhere scattered, where the Wain directs its team of oxen. How worthy a thing, O God, for Thy flock to offer Thee at dewy night's beginning - light, Thy most precious gift, light, by which we perceive all Thy other blessings." (Prudentius, Cathemarina V. 137-152 - from Fortuna Fine Arts, Ltd. Catalogue entitled "Solid Liquid: Greek, Roman, Byzantine and Islamic Glass" (New York: 1999), p. 110. Also see similar examples of conical lamps in this publication - figures 199 and 200, pages 110-111).
Provenance: private East Coast, USA collection
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