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Openwork Lamp with Openwork Inscription


Byzantine
mid 6th century
10.3 cm x 15.5 cm (4 1/16 in. x 6 1/8 in.)
silver
BZ.1965.1.12

On view


Permalink: http://museum.doaks.org/objects-1/info/35148

Additional Images
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Additional Image Before restoration
Before restoration
Additional Image Before restoration, obverse
Before restoration, obverse
Additional Image Bottom
Bottom
Additional Image Detail of stamps
Detail of stamps
Additional Image Detail, inscription
Detail, inscription
Additional Image Detail, inscription
Detail, inscription
Additional Image Detail, inscription
Detail, inscription
Additional Image Drawings
Drawings
Additional Image Sion Silver Group
Sion Silver Group


Description
The Sion Treasure (BZ.1963.36.1-3,11 and BZ.1965.1.1,5,12) is an extensive and varied group of liturgical objects and church furnishings discovered in the early 1960s in southern Turkey. A significant part of this treasure is in Dumbarton Oaks, while much of it is housed in the Antalya Museum, with a few pieces in private collections. The treasure’s name derives from the niello inscription on an oblong polycandelon mentioning “Holy Sion,” possibly the church or the monastery for which the objects were made. Many Sion Treasure items are inscribed for a Bishop Eutychianos, who is otherwise unknown. Several other individuals are named, but they, too, are unknown among historical sources. Many objects are unique—for example, a cross-shaped polycandelon and a peacock censer. Almost all the objects in the treasure are of exceptionally high quality, and many were in excellent condition when they were found, like the patens. Some pieces, however, were bent or crushed, suggesting that they were going to be melted down and their metal reused. If, as is supposed, the treasure was buried during the early seventh century, when Sasanian invasions were followed by Arab incursions, the Byzantine imperial authorities most likely were calling in church silver to mint coins in order to pay the wages of the emperor’s army.

The openwork silver lamps in the Sion Treasure are among its most extraordinary artistic contributions to the history and craft of liturgical arts. This unusual cylindrical lamp has an openwork cut-out inscription over a horseshoe arcade, with a criss-cross openwork pattern on its flat bottom. The oil and burning wick floating on water were originally held in a glass liner that would have been blown directly into the silver container. Whether the lamp was standing or suspended from chains, light would have streamed out of it in all directions through its multiple openwork patterns.

Eutychianos, the major donor of the Sion Treasure, recorded his humility and, incidentally, his pride by including his name in the formula of offering on the lamp: “Eutychianos, most humble bishop, [offers this] to [our] Lady, the Mother of God."

- S. Zwirn


Bibliography
S. A. Boyd, "A Bishop's Gift: Openwork Lamps from the Sion Treasure," in Argenterie romaine et byzantine: actes de la table ronde, Paris 11-13 octobre 1983 ed. F. Baratte and N. Duval (Paris, 1988), 191-202, esp. 193, no. 5, pl. 3.1-3, 4.1-2.

———, "A 'Metropolitan' Treasure from a Church in the Provinces: An introduction to the Study of the Sion Treasure," in Ecclesiastical Silver Plate in Sixth-Century Byzantium: Papers of the Symposium held May 16-18, 1986, at the Walters Art Gallery, Baltimore, and Dumbarton Oaks, Washington, D.C. ed. S.A. Boyd and M.M. Mango (Washington, D.C., 1992), 5-37, esp. 11, 29-30, fig. S46.1-4, checklist no. 46.

I. ?ev?enko, "The Sion Treasure: The Evidence of the Inscriptions," in Ecclesiastical Silver Plate in Sixth-Century Byzantium: Papers of the Symposium held May 16-18, 1986, at the Walters Art Gallery, Baltimore, and Dumbarton Oaks, Washington, D.C. ed. S.A. Boyd and M.M. Mango (Washington, D.C., 1992), 39-56, esp. 43.

R. Newman and H. Lie, "The Technical Examination and Conservation of Objects in the Sion Treasure," in Ecclesiastical Silver Plate in Sixth-Century Byzantium: Papers of the Symposium held May 16-18, 1986, at the Walters Art Gallery, Baltimore, and Dumbarton Oaks, Washington, D.C. ed. S.A. Boyd and M.M. Mango (Washington, D.C., 1992), 77-94, esp. 78 n. 6, 83.

G. Bühl, ed., Dumbarton Oaks: The Collections (Washington, D.C., 2008), 90-91, 94, pl. p. 95.

H. G. Meredith, Word Becomes Image: Openwork Vessels as a Reflection of Late Antique Transformation (Oxford, England, 2015), 244, no. 75.



Acquisition History
Purchased from George Zacos (dealer) by Mrs. Robert Woods Bliss, Switzerland, 1965.

Given by Mrs. Robert Woods Bliss to Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection, Washington, D.C., 1965.

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