Vetusta Monumenta: Ancient Monuments, a Digital Edition

Plate 2.17: Roman Bronze Lamp with Vase and Bells


Engraving by George Vertue (1684-1756) after his own drawings depicting four separate objects. The top of the page offers a Roman lamp cast to resemble a grotesque head, which is precariously balanced on two dog-like legs. Two views of the lamp are depicted side by side, in profile at left and a three-quarter angle at right; the profile view shows that the top is hinged to accommodate lamp oil. In the center of the plate appears a bronze amphora-style vase featuring three neck handles and four evenly spaced plastic Satyric faces. Below are two elaborately decorated hand bells dated 1547 and 1366. A drawing of the lamp was ordered after it was exhibited by Charles Chauncey on 7 February 1754. The vase must have been exhibited at the same time, for the next week “a motion was made . . . that the Lamp and Vase shewed to the Society in the Possession of Dr. Chauncey being of Curious Workmanship and Antiquity be ordered to be Ballotted for to be Engraved together with the Bell presented to the Society by Dr. Rawlinson” (SAL Minutes VII.104r.). Vertue's preparatory drawings of this bell, the Cheyne bell, the vase, and the lamp are all included in the online Catalogue of Drawings. The print is dated 25 February 1756, and the minutes show that Vertue presented the proof the next day and was ordered to print off 650 copies (VII.250r.).


Oil lamp, vase, and two bells, all of bronze. The lamp is confirmed to be of Roman age in the entry for Vertue’s preparatory drawing in the Catalogue of Drawings, but the entry for the vase drawing notes that “the vase has a look more of the Italian Renaissance or Baroque than Roman” (SAL 2005). The entry for the right-hand bell inserts “[1566 misread]” following the date, suggesting that the two bells are more nearly contemporary than Vertue believed, but no evidence is given. If the later date is correct, however, the bell cannot have belonged to a “nunnery” as the caption indicates. The “late Earl of Oxford” who owned this bell, according to the caption, is most likely the second earl, Edward Harley (1689-1741), since Vertue documented numerous objects from his collection (though the third earl may also be meant). This bell is now untraced, as are the lamp and the vase from the collection of Charles Chauncey. The bell on the left, however, is still in the collection of the Society of Antiquaries of London (LDSAL 133). The Society’s catalogue of 1847 describes it as “a small bronze hand-bell, ornamented with medallions and garlands, in relief, and inscribed with the founder’s name . . . and the Flemish motto” (Way 1847, 27). The entry references this engraving and states that the bell was “presented to the Society by Dr. Richard Rawlinson on May 10, 1753.“ Rawlinson was vice president at the time and donated many objects to the Society (SAL Minutes VII.61v).


Top Caption: Two Views of an ANTIQVE BRASS LAMP, purchased out of the collection of Baron Wassenaer at the Hague, ann. 1750, and now in the possession of Charles Chauncy, M.D.

Center Caption: A BRASS ANTIQVE VASE, purchased out of the same collection, and now in the possession of the Gentleman above mentioned.


Lower Left Caption: An ANTIENT BELL, now in the possession of the Society of Antiquaries of London.


Lower Right Caption: An ANTIENT BELL, formerly belonging to a Nunnery in Essex, and since to the late Earl of Oxford.

Bottom: The several draughts are about the size of their respective originals. / G. Vertue delin. et sculp. Published according to Act of Parliament 25 Feb. 1756. Sumptibus Societ. Ant. Lond. 1756.


Fine Bell: [The Flemish legend “Lof God Van Al” is translated on the plate as “Laud God of All.”] / John A. Fine made me in the year 1547.

Cheyne Bell: O mother of God, remember me. / Peter Cheyne made me in 1366.

Bottom: Drawn and engraved by George Vertue. Published by the Society of Antiquaries of London

Commentary by Thora Brylowe:

George Vertue’s last engraving for Vetusta Monumenta—his eighty-seventh in the series all told—initiates a period of transition and uncertainty marked by the search for a new engraver and a new direction for the series. The next print in the series, similar in composition and in subject matter, seems to echo this one, possibly to signal continuity in the series. The two engravings are therefore discussed together in one commentary. For a full account of both, please see the commentary for Plate 2.18

Works Cited:

Society of Antiquaries of London. 2005. Society of Antiquaries of London Catalogue of Drawings and Museum Objects. York: Archaeology Data Service.

Way, Albert. 1847. Catalogue of Antiquities, Coins, Pictures, and Miscellaneous Curiosities, in the Possession of the Society of Antiquaries of London. London: John Bowyer Nichols.

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