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Home > Auctions > 30th November 2021 > Byzantine Polycandelon with Cross

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LOT 0117

GBP (£) 800 - 1,000
EUR (€) 940 - 1,180
USD ($) 1,070 - 1,330

Sold for (Inc. bp): £953

Byzantine Polycandelon with Cross

6th-7th century AD

A bronze discoid polycandelon, or hanging lamp holder, with stylised central openwork Christian cross surrounded by six panels with central circular sockets for lamps, three chains, one incorporating a cross, ornamental terminal and plaque above, with hook. 900 grams, 62cm (24 1/2"). Fine condition.

From a deceased gentleman, London/Israel collection, 1970-1999.

Cf. Bailey, D.M., A catalogue of the lamps in the British Museum, IV, Lamps of metal and stone, and lampstands, London, 1996, pl.141, for similar; Wamser L. and Zahlhaas, G., Rom und Byzanz, Archaologischen Kostbarkeiten aus Bayern, München, 1999.

Oil-filled glass vessels once hung from the round openings in this polycandelon. Such lamps cast beautiful shadows on walls, magnifying the designs of their disks on walls and floors. The shadows from this lamp would have emphasised its Christian symbolism. Enormous hanging lamps were used to light the great church of Hagia Sophia in Constantinople, which the poet and courtier Paul the Silentiary described in 563 AD: 'Thus is everything clothed in beauty … no words are sufficient to describe the illumination in the evening: you might say that some nocturnal sun filled the majestic church with light.'