Art/ Collection/ Art Object

Oil Lamp with Open Reservoir

Object Name:
Oil lamp
8th–9th century
Found/excavated Iraq, Ctesiphon
Earthenware; glazed, applied, and pinched
Credit Line:
Rogers Fund, 1932
Accession Number:
Not on view
This ceramic lamp was excavated in Ctesiphon, the Sasanian metropolis and administrative capital conquered by Arab Muslim armies in 637. The city was known in Arabic as al-Mada’in, or "the cities", for its extended area. Arab historians indulge in describing al-Mada’in/Ctesiphon’s grand monuments, which obsessed Muslim rulers and may have acquired a symbolic meaning related to its imperial past. This was the case of the Taq-i Kisra, an impressively-sized ivan (a vaulted hall with one side open) partially dismantled to reuse its bricks in caliphal buildings in the new capital Baghdad.

This lamp belongs to a long-standing tradition of turquoise-glazed ceramics made in Mesopotamia since the Parthian period, of which it represents a late Sasanian or Early Islamic evolution. Lamps with circular open reservoirs and slightly pinched spout were later abandoned in favor of more pinched shapes. Here, traces of fire are visible on the rim where the burning stub would have been placed.
Excavated at Selman Pak IV in Ctesiphon, Iraq, by the Joint Expedition of the Staatlichen Museen of Berlin and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1931–32. Acquired by the Museum in the division of finds and accessioned, 1932

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