Roman Bronze Oil Lamp in the Form of an African's Head - FZ.362
Origin: Mediterranean
Circa: 100 AD to 300 AD
Dimensions: 2.375" (6.0cm) high x 1.875" (4.8cm) wide
Collection: Classical
Style: Roman
Medium: Bronze


What a shock it would be to stick out your tongue only to find it on fire. We can see this surprise depicted in the details of the man’s face. His wide, expressive eyes and raised eyebrows all contribute to this sensation. If we imagine the lamp burning, he appears to stare in fear and disbelief at the flames that emerge from his mouth. Although black Africans would have been exotic to the ancient Romans, they were clearly not unknown. The tight ringlets of his curly hair and broad nose reveal a first hand encounter with such a type. This man is not a fantastical representation created from the descriptions of some adventurous traveler, but a portrait of an individual whose facial characteristic would have distinguished him from the ordinary Roman citizen. Perhaps he was a trader, maybe an enslaved warrior brought back to Rome after being defeated. The Carthaginians were known to recruit black Africans in their battles against the Romans. Today, as the boundaries of cultures are blurred, the exoticism of this piece has faded. Yet this bronze oil lamp is even more remarkable for what it symbolizes: an ancient desire to discover and learn from other ways of living and other types of people. - (FZ.362)




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