Roman, Imperial Period, ca. 1st to 3rd century CE. A delightfully well-endowed bronze oil lamp in the form of a squatting satyr. His faun's lower body is crouched, with his hoofs out in front of him; above this, his human body is corpulent and hunched. He leans forward, his hands grasping his enormous tumescence, which serves as the spout of the lamp. A thin handle is at the back of the figure; a loop is at the top, allowing it to be suspended. An opening at the back of the head allowed oil to be poured into the body. Size: 3.05" W x 2.9" H (7.7 cm x 7.4 cm)
Satyr imagery in the classical world was associated with the god Bacchus (Dionysus), god of wine and nature, and with wild revels. Dionysus's popularity in artwork only grew in Imperial Rome. The wealthy people who could commission bronze items like this one were attracted to him for many reasons, aside from just being the god of pleasure - his half-mortal form, his magnificent lifestyle, and the possibility that he could be an ancestor of their own.
Provenance: private East Coast, USA collection; ex-private London, England collection, 1970s
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