Serendipity

I’ve been researching an ancient Cypriot lamp from the Kent Collection in Harrogate – a fascinating collection, on which much more another time. The lamp was previously owned by William Cudworth (1830-1906), a journalist with the Bradford Observer and a keen local historian and antiquarian, being a founding member of the Bradford Historical and Antiquarian Society. He is best known for his many works on Bradford and the surrounding area, including Worstedopolis: A sketch history of the town and trade of Bradford. He also seems to have tried his hand at translating part of Homer’s Odyssey into English; a man after my own heart.

Portrait of William Cudworth

Portrait of William Cudworth

I was very pleased to discover that William Cudworth had published a monograph on ancient lamps (1893), based on his own collection, and even more pleased to find a second-hand copy. This turned out to be very helpful on the lamp from the Kent Collection, but also helped solve the mystery of another unidentified lamp, an unexpected bonus.

Cover

‘Antique Terracotta Lamps’ by William Cudworth

I like the way the publisher has created a generalised air of ‘antiquity’ with the illuminated capital A, and the rather affected ‘Publiʃh’d’. However, I was more struck by the engraved picture of a lamp, with three wicks, a looped handle and two ivy-leaf-shaped projections at the rear. It looked very similar to the lamp in one of the lantern slides made by Henry Crowther, Curator of the Leeds Philosophical and Literary Society’s Museum, in the late 19th or early 20th century.

Lamp from the cover of 'Antique Terracotta Lamps'

Lamp from the cover of ‘Antique Terracotta Lamps’

Lamp with triple wick. © Leeds Museums and Galleries

Lamp with triple wick.
© Leeds Museums and Galleries

Cudworth’s volume includes a photograph of his lamp, and a description:

Etruscan Lamp from Cudworth's volume, p.8

Etruscan lamp from Cudworth’s volume, p.8

“The large Etruscan specimen in my collection… possesses three projecting nozzles for wicks, which, judging from the openings, must have been of large size and of considerable illuminating power. The lamp is of the solid black paste characteristic of the real Etruscan ware, and is enriched with Bacchic ornamentation in the shape of vine leaves and grapes, with the face of a bacchante, of noble profile. The numerals LVI are inscribed at the base of the lamp. It is a unique specimen, measuring 10 by 10 1/2 inches, and was found in a deposit at Rome. Dr Birch says that this ware exhibits the highest degree of art attained in Italian potteries.”

[Dr Birch = Dr Samuel Birch (1813-1885), Keeper of Oriental Antiquities at the British Museum.]

Since it is ‘a unique specimen’, I think we can say with some confidence that Henry Crowther’s lantern slide shows the same lamp. It’s worth noting that the colour was added by hand by Mr Crowther’s daughter Violet, and is not necessarily the exact shade of the original lamp. The fact that it is Etruscan does at least explain why I haven’t been able to find any Cypriot parallels! It must have been included in the sequence of Cypriot slides by mistake, whether by Mr Crowther or at a later date.

The question is how this lamp, from the Cudworth collection, came to be photographed by Mr Crowther; but it’s fairly straightforward to conjecture that after Mr Cudworth’s death in 1906 his collection was broken up by bequests and/or sales, and that the Museum of the Leeds Philosophical and Literary Society took the opportunity to acquire this lamp. The current location of the lamp is unknown, but there is still hope that it may be found again at some point. It’s great to have shed some light on this mysterious image entirely by accident; and to have a further demonstration of how closely interconnected were the circles of antiquarians, curators and collectors of ancient Cyprus.

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