Roman Period Oil Lamp Depicting the Head of Medusa

SKU CK.0077

100 AD to 300 AD


3.625″ (9.2cm) high x 2.875″ (7.3cm) wide





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Today, the name Medusa conjures up images of a hideous, frightening monster with the snarling fangs of a snake and hair consisting of serpents. However, while this representation of Medusa would have been familiar to an Ancient Greek or Roman, they also would have recognized another, more tame depiction of the famous gorgon. As Classical art evolved over time, the horrifying Medusa type slowly transformed into a type whose features recalled those of a beautiful woman. Her hair of snakes gave way to flowing curly locks recalling the wind-swept coiffure of Alexander the Great.

A lamp such as this might have lit homes when the Roman Empire ruled the world. A metaphor of joy and prosperity, for hope, for life itself, lamps have illuminated the path of civilization for centuries. They have guided great thoughts through the night, stood vigil with lonely passions. In the presence of this simple object, we are in touch directly with a vanished world, with the people once warmed by its glow. Today it remains as an enduring symbol of man's desire to conquer the darkness.

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