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Hanging Lamp and Chains

Middle Byzantine
10th century
Diam. 23.3 cm

On view


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Detail of chain
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The lamp is the only surviving example of a type of lamp that is otherwise known through illuminated manuscripts. A very similar bowl-shaped lamp hangs, for example, over St. Luke’s desk in his author portrait in a tenth-century Gospel Book in the British Library (Add. MS 28815, fol. 76v). In this illustration, the lamp is hung from the end of a rope, which passes through one hook at the top of the niche, and then another at the side, and terminates in some sort of counterweight. This system allowed the lamp to be lowered for filling and trimming.

As the design of Dumbarton Oaks’ lamp lacks a nozzle, it would have required a wick holder, a metal piece that would have spanned the diameter of the bowl and held the lit end of the wick above the reservoir of oil. Glass lamps were not only visually attractive in their own right, but also provided more light and created interesting shadows in the area beneath them.

- J. Hanson

The Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection of Harvard University, Handbook of the Collection (Washington, D.C., 1946), 91, no. 174.

The Dumbarton Oaks Collection, Harvard University (Washington, D.C., 1955), 133, no. 269.

M. C. Ross, Catalogue of the Byzantine and Early Mediaeval Antiquities in the Dumbarton Oaks Collection, vol. 1, Metalwork, Ceramics, Glass, Glyptics, Painting (Washington, D.C., 1962), 85-86, no. 103, pl. 56.

Handbook of the Byzantine Collection (Washington, D.C., 1967), 93, no. 321.

M. G. Parani, "Representations of Glass Objects as a Source on Byzantine Glass: How Useful Are They?," Dumbarton Oaks Papers 59 (2005): 147-71, esp. 156-157, fig. 8.

Acquisition History
Andronicos Collection, Istanbul.

Purchased from Dr. Hugo Weissmann by Joseph Brummer, March 29th 1946.

Purchased from Joseph Brummer, April 25th 1946 by Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection.

Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection, Byzantine Collection, Washington, D.C.