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Lamp in the Shape of a Trussed Male Gazelle (2nd-4th century CE)

For Artwork in Focus we explore individual artworks, critiquing their style and discussing their socio-political context. Today we look at Lamp in the Shape of a Trussed Male Gazelle (2nd-4th century CE).

About the Work

Title : Lamp in the Shape of a Trussed Male Gazelle
Year : 2nd-4th century CE
Medium : Leaded Bronze
Dimensions : 14.3 x 10.2 x 10.3 cm (5 5/8 x 4 x 4 1/16 in.)
Location : Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge, Massachusetts

According to the digital catalogue of the Harvard Art Museums :

“The lamp belongs to a group generally associated with Egypt and dated variously from the second century BCE through the second century CE, although only one example comes from a dated context. The gazelle (dorcas) is a small genus of antelope known to Pliny and Aelian as being native to North Africa and was a popular import to Rome.”

The museum notes that the gazelle was typically depicted in ancient Rome as being caught in a net. While the piece above shows no such net, it does hint at an animal in captivity. The gazelle’s legs are bound together by rope, meaning the animal is not free. The body of the animal also curved forward awkwardly.

Other Details

Lamp in the Shape of a Trussed Male Gazelle is housed in the Harvard Art Museums in Room 3700. It is part of the museum’s collection of Ancient Mediterranean and Near Eastern Art – Roman Art. The piece has been housed at the  Museum since 1968.


To learn more about iconic artworks and their socio-political context, visit Artwork in Focus.

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