Nov 4, 2005
Nov 4, 2005

Lamp with Griffin-Head Handle

Lamp with Griffin-Head Handle



Overall: 14.7 x 22.6 x 7 cm (5 13/16 x 8 7/8 x 2 3/4 in.)

Gift of Mrs. Chester D. Tripp in honor of William Mathewson Milliken on his 85th year 1974.77



Bronze oil lamps with griffin-head handles and Christian symbolic decoration were common from the 4th through the 6th centuries and have survived in considerable numbers all over the Mediterranean world. The popularity of griffins, ancient mythological creatures with the body of a lion and head and wings of an eagle, is probably rooted in their traditional role as powerful guardian figures and protectors. On this Early Byzantine bronze lamp, the griffin seems to have functioned similarly as a guardian of the flame and a keeper of the light. The decoration of an everyday utilitarian object with both pagan and Christian symbols of protection may mark an effort to enhance its power.

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