Naked Man Offering Grapes
Circa 4th-6th Century AD
Description: Diminutive Roman North African redware lamp with discus decorated with a man facing right holding in his left hand a large cluster of grapes. The man is naked except for a cloak which he drapes over his left arm for protection. An alternating pattern of leaves and arches decorate the shoulder.
Height: 4.6 in. (11.6 cm)
Condition: Excellent. An old collection number "403" is written in ink on the underside and there are remnants of a 50+ year old collection label.
Provenance: Formerly a West Coast property. Prior to that most likely from a European private collection based on the remains of the label.
Reference: See Light form the Age of Augustine, by Annewies van den Hoek, #96, for the identical depiction of the naked man but with the inclusion of a lion.
Background: The interpretation of this scene has escaped scholars of North African pottery and iconography so far. An explanation could be sought in the biblical realm, according to Annewies van den Hoek, particularly in the story in which Samson kills a lion bare-handed (Judges 14:5-9). While no combat is shown the image evokes the moment when the young lion roared at Samson and his parents in the vineyard of Timnah. She also posits other potential readings of the lamp including Bacchus taming animals with the power of grapes or the reenactment of a mythological charade in the amphitheatre.
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