Oil-lamp in the form of a dolphin with cross - ROM2008_10174_3


Oil-lamp in the form of a dolphin with cross

Medium:Bronze (cast)
Geography: Syria-Palestine, possibly made in Egypt
Date: 5th century AD
Period: Roman Imperial period
9.7 x 16.5 x 5.2 cm, 177.2 g
Object number: 910.87.520
Not on view
DescriptionThe dolphin has an ancient symbolic meaning in the Mediterranean, with recognized characteristics of swiftness, diligence and love, and was particularly perceived as a guide, swimming as it often does just in front or alongside the ships of the day. Early Christians adopted the dolphin amongst many other ancient symbols. For Christians, the dolphin may represent Christ guiding the Christian to the true church, or the Christian soul itself being guided. Other meanings include the association with the early Christian symbol of the fish (the fact that the dolphin is a mammal would not be relevant to early Christians!). The dolphin is also associated with Jonah (again, despite the fact it would not be large enough to swallow a human), who is in turn symbolic of the Resurrection. This particular lamp was purchased from a Jerusalem dealer in 1910, and so may have been found in the region, but the closest parallels with reliable contexts are from Egypt. (RM)
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