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Lampstand on Tripod of Felines

Early Byzantine
6th century - early 7th century
27.5 cm (10 13/16 in.)

On view


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Lampstands capitalize on the light radiating from a single oil flame, by raising it above the work surface, spreading the light over a larger area. The user could insert the pointed pricket (the spike rising from the top) into a hole for this purpose in the lamp proper, and the wide pan below caught any dripping oil.

The shaft is cast, but its decorative elements are shaped as if turned on a lathe. In the center and just under the pan, the shapes combine to create the form of a vase with a wide, low belly and flaring lip. Similar shapes are found on the shaft of a silver lampstand at Dumbarton Oaks, (accession no. BZ.1938.83), excavated at Antioch, which has control stamps on it that date it to the reign of Phokas (602-610). This similarity argues in favor of a date in the late sixth or early seventh century.

Separately-cast lionesses form the three feet. Animals were popular supports in Roman furniture and continued to be in early Byzantine centuries.
J. Hanson

The Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection of Harvard University, Handbook of the Collection (Washington, D.C., 1946), 42, no. 75, pl. p. 49.

The Dumbarton Oaks Collection, Harvard University (Washington, D.C., 1955), 39, no. 82.

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), 39, no. 40, pl. XXIX.

Handbook of the Byzantine Collection (Washington, D.C., 1967), 33, no. 115.

A. Badawy, Coptic Art and Archaeology: the Art of the Christian Egyptians from the Late Antique to the Middle Ages (Cambridge, Mass., 1978), 322.

L. Bouras and M. G. Parani, Lighting in Early Byzantium, Dumbarton Oaks Byzantine Collection Publications 11 (Washington, D.C.:[Cambridge, Mass.], 2008), 10, 80, 81, no. 22, pl. p. 81.

Acquisition History
Purchased from Sydney Burney by Mildred and Robert Woods Bliss, October 20, 1933.

Collection of Mildred and Robert Woods Bliss, Washington, D.C., until November 29, 1940.

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