III. Roman-Period Clay Lamps / Augustan and Imperial Lamps / Types from North African Provinces only

Deneauve type X A


This type was long assimilated with Loeschcke type I, until Deneauve in his Lampes de Carthage (Deneauve 1969) rightly identified it as a type of its own. It was developed by African potters between A.D. 175 and 250, at a time when Loeschcke type I had not been in production for more than a century. Deneauve type X A keeps the general shape of its predecessor—round discus and triangular volute-nozzle—and yet it has distinct original features. Deneauve has isolated six nozzle forms not found on the first-century models (Deneauve 1969, p. 76, pl. 2). Generally triangular, the volute-nozzle may also have a more or less rounded tip (see Deneauve 1969, nos. 1042, 1043, pl. 94). Distinct forms of shoulder and base have so far not been worked out. Had it not been signed by PVLLAENVS, the well-known African workshop active A.D. 175–250, a lamp of this type in a private collection (see Bussière 1998) would certainly have been dated to the Julio-Claudian period by many specialists on the basis of its shape alone. This rare document shows one of the first attempts of the African workshop to revive faithfully a completely abandoned form. This was probably done from reuse of old molds, or through the technique of surmoulage, and by progressively adding to the form new original features more in the taste of the time. Among these, for example, is the treatment of the volutes. On cat. 463 they are quite similar to the volutes on Loeschcke type I, but the way they are connected by a ridge underneath the nozzle is something new. On cats. 463 and 465 the volutes are separated by a relief decor on the nozzle top; underneath the nozzle they are linked to each other by a raised fleur-de-lis motif. On cat. 471 they are merely sketched out and marked off by two grooves.

The discus decors are also original and do not figure in the iconographic repertories of former types. They deal with harbor scenes, Alexandrian landscapes, still lifes, hunting scenes, actors, athletes, and mythological representations, all treated in a new style.

Of the nine Getty examples, four have a signature: VICTORINI, POSSESSORVM, PORCI, and one that is illegible. Among other African workshops that produced Deneauve type X A lamps, one finds PVLLAENI, AVGENDI, LVCCEI, MAVRICI, REVOCATI, VENVSII, CARPAMI, and CRETASSI. These ateliers, located in Africa Proconsularis, have also produced and exported lamps to other African provinces, to Italy, the Italian islands, and to Spain. Late examples of such lamps have a rounded or heart-shaped nozzle of type Deneauve VIII B. The date of Deneauve type X A—A.D. 175–250—is supported by the presence of several signatures of those workshops also found in Carthage on clay figurines (Deneauve 1987, pp. 197–230). These show female figures with the fashionable hairstyle of Julia Domna, which provides a chronological clue. One of these figurines, representing an hydraulic organ with its player (Deneauve 1987, fig. 17, Mu 1), bears the signature POSSESSORIS, incised in a characteristic handwriting that is found also on a lamp of Deneauve type X A in the British Museum (Bailey BM III, Q 1718, pl. 15); on one from Bu Njem (Deneauve 1986, p. 145, figs. 2–5): (GRATIANI[?]); on one from Sabratha (Joly 1974, no. 1318, pl. 57); and on cat. 463 (POSSESSORVM). The same writing was used also by MAVRICIVS, as testified by two lamps from Pupput (Bonifay 2004a, p. 336, nos. 11 and 12, fig. 189); and by CARPAMI, AVGENDI, and REVOCATI (see Guarducci 1982, p. 131, fig. 1).

There are a few other archaeological criteria to date the type. Bu Njem (ancient Gholaia), a Roman camp in Libya occupied between A.D. 201 and 259/263, has yielded five lamps of the type under discussion (Rebuffat 1987, pp. 86–87). Another example has been found in a tomb of Pupput dated by its context to the middle or second half of the third century (Bonifay 2004a, p. 336, fig. 189.6, already quoted above for its handwriting). Finally, Chemtou (Tunisia), where the workshop was active between A.D. 175 and 280, has yielded 209 examples of the type (Vegas 1994, p. 175).

Deneauve type X A lamps with harbor scenes have been much discussed: Is the harbor represented Alexandria, Ostia, or Carthage? Ultimately, Bailey favors Carthage (Bailey BM III, p. 431). In several articles—the most important being Joly 1968, Bernhard 1972, Bailey 1984, Carretero Vaquero 1991, and Amaré Tafalla and Liz Guiral 1994—one can find more parallels than the ones given for the similar lamps cats. 464–67. These four lamps had been registered in the Getty Museum as fakes. After careful examination, we think they are authentic. Because parallels of these lamps given by several authors have systematically been considered forgeries produced by a modern workshop in Naples, we will develop our arguments.

Authenticity of cats. 464–67, discussion

The shape, workmanship, and looks and color of clay and slip of the first two lamps, cats. 464–65, are in accordance with some identical known parallels: see Deneauve 1969, no. 1047, pl. 95; or Hellmann 1985, no. 14, for cat. 464; Deneauve 1969, no. 1044, pl. 95, for cat. 465, signed PORCI by an African workshop. The only slight difference between Deneauve no. 1044 and our cat. 465 is the design on their nozzle tops: a stepped structure (lighthouse[?]) on the former, a small boat on the latter. This last design appears also on the nozzle top of a lamp from Carthage of the same African type, signed PVLLAENI, IANVARI (Alaoui I, no. 233). As further evidence of their authenticity, cats. 464–65 have remains of corrosion from an iron wick-nail. In the case of cat. 465, the half-preserved needle, integrated into the clay, is unmistakably ancient.

The general form of cat. 466 as well as the shape of its rilled shoulder and of its base undoubtedly belong to Deneauve type X A, but the blunt squarish shape of its nozzle does not. At least we do not know of any such nozzle form on lamps of Deneauve type X A. Except for its peculiar nozzle, the lamp has several parallels in the literature, for example, Deneauve 1969, no. 1046, signed PVLLAENI just like cat. 466. Puzzling detail: on the discus of the Carthage lamp the fisherman in the boat is holding a fishing rod, which is not represented on cat. 466. Would the same workshop (PVLLAENI) represent practically the same scene both with and without a relatively important detail, or can this omission be due to a defect in the molding process? On some unsigned lamps showing the same fishing scene done in excellent relief—for instance, Mlasowsky 1993, no. 289—we see both the rod and the fisherman unhooking the fish caught on his line. On the other hand, the discus of a fragmented lamp of Deneauve type X A (Vegas 1994, no. 498, pl. 124a) bears the same decor without the fishing rod, as on cat. 466. The authenticity of this lamp is ascertained, for it was found in situ in the camp of Simitthus. Unfortunately its base is missing, so we do not know whether or not the lamp was signed PVLLAENI.

Do the peculiar shape of the nozzle, the omission of the fishing rod, and the perhaps too conspicuous burn marks around the wick-hole of cat. 466 suggest a forgery? The lamp was registered in the Getty Museum as a fake. An inspection under ultraviolet light conducted by Eduardo Sánchez of the Museum’s Antiquities Conservation Department has proved that the nozzle has been restored: the joint lines on the nozzle are visible with some dark brown resinous material in them, which may be paint. Mortar or clay has been used to mask the joints. Is the nozzle the original one, or has it been borrowed from another broken lamp? Only a comparative analysis of both clays, from the basin and the nozzle, performed in a specialized laboratory, could give the answer. Ultimately, our present conviction is that the lamp, despite its suspicious nozzle, is authentic.

One merit of BM III is its classification into organized groups of 165 false lamps in the British Museum, giving, as always, an abundance of parallels. According to BM III, our cat. 467 should be classified in the Naples group of forgeries produced between 1870 and World War II (Bailey BM III, pp. 429–38), more precisely in group 6 of this modern workshop (Bailey 1984, pp. 268–69). This group gathers five lamps showing a fishing scene; group 7 contains five lamps showing a causeway. While admitting that he has seen only three of these ten lamps and that “it is perhaps hazardous to condemn the other seven from photographs alone,” Bailey nevertheless has no doubt whatsoever that the three examples he has actually seen are modern products stemming from an Italian factory, probably in Naples, that manufactured fake lamps as tourist souvenirs. In the course of twenty-five years’ museum work, he adds, he has seen “hundreds of examples of the products of this factory in many museums; these products are readily recognizable by shape, appearance, fabric and surface treatments” (Bailey 1984, p. 269).

Without casting any doubt on Bailey’s exceptional professional experience, we feel that he has not given sufficient reasons to declare as forgeries the five lamps of his group 6 to which cat. 467 belongs, four of which he has not seen. Elsewhere, in Bailey BM III, p. 429, about the thirty-eight lamps of different types included in the Naples group, Bailey specifies: “The fabric is usually of a brownish color, but is occasionally cream-coloured or pale buff, and is normally covered with a dark brown paint, with painted blackening round the wick-holes; very often there is an applied incrustation of rust-coloured particles.” None of these observations applies to cat. 467, nor do the following comments on fakes, made by Haken describing a lamp in the Prague museum (an exact replica of cat. 467): “The lamp is molded of light yellow material. Its surface is light grey. . . . The light weight and the exceptionally well preserved decoration leads immediately to the suspicion that a copy or a falsificate is present here. Noteworthy is also the covering of the surface by a grey color and the application of small grains of rusty color to the decorated surface” (Haken 1958, pp. 106–8, no. 113, pl. 16).

The Prague lamp is undoubtedly a fake. It probably has influenced Joly (1968) to consider as fakes similar lamps gathered in her group I B, and likewise Bailey (1984) when he discusses the four lamps in his group 6 of which, as already noted, he has seen only one (lamp V, from the Fitzwilliam Museum). Carretero Vaquero (1991) and Amaré Tafalla and Liz Guiral (1994) take for granted the same assessment of forgery. Speaking of his lamps nos. 24–28 (p. 202), Carretero Vaquero (1991) writes: “Son falsificaciones napolitanas del siglo XIX, próntamente reconocibles tanto por su forma como por su acabado” (They are Neapolitan fakes from the nineteenth century, immediately recognizable both by their shape and by their finish). Those two statements are unjustified. There is nothing in the shape alone that authorizes us to consider as a fake cat. 467, which has replicas in Deneauve’s authentic lamps nos. 1042–43 signed PVLLAENI. The acabado (finish) of Carreto’s fake lamps nos. 24–28 cannot be a criterion for identifying a forgery, for we have observed the same finish on genuine lamps of Deneauve type X A, such as the Kestner Museum example (Mlasowsky 1993, p. 279, no. 289). Here again we suspect an author of being a posteriori influenced by Haken’s remarks made for his fake lamp no. 113 (Haken 1958, p. 106).

In conclusion, we have no reason whatsoever to suspect the authenticity of cat. 467. The Prague fake lamp no. 113 must have been inspired by a genuine lamp that has to be sought in Africa exclusively, given that its shape is absent in other Roman provinces.

Banner image: Detail of cat. 467