Art/ Collection/ Art Object


5th–6th century
From Egypt
Earthenware; molded
H. 5 in. (12.7 cm) W. 4 1/4 in. (10.8 cm)
Credit Line:
Gift of J. Pierpont Morgan, 1917
Accession Number:
Not on view
Small earthenware lamps made from double molds were the most commonly used source of light in daily Coptic life. A wick produced from plant fiber or linen fabric was placed in a reservoir filled with oil, generally castor or sesame oil, and illuminated. The disc of this lamp is decorated with a chi-rho monogram, consisting of the superimposed capital Greek letters chi (X) and rho (P), the first two letters of Christ in Greek. The pearled monogram is reversed and surrounded by an alternating border of chevrons and quatrefoils.Christian symbols such as this monogram were thought to offer protection for the lamp’s owner.
Marking: Mark on the bottom of lamp is an incised circle.
Julien Gréau, Paris; J. Pierpont Morgan, New York (by 1903–d. 1913; his estate 1913–17; gifted to MMA)
Bouras, Laskarina, and Maria G. Parani. Lighting in Early Byzantium. Washington, D.C.: Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection, 2008. no. 17, pp. 70-71, ill.

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