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Polycandelion with Glass Lamps
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Polycandelion with Glass Lamps

Description Conservation Exhibitions Provenance Credit
Description Whether in a church adorned with stained-glass windows or in a space with only small openings in the walls, the light entering from outside would have mingled with flickering oil lamps and candles inside, illuminating some areas of painted or mosaic-clad walls while leaving other spaces dark. Candles were set into candlesticks placed on altars and on the floor supported by holders affixed to columns and wall. Oil lamps could be suspended between the columns lining the nave, or over the altar. This example of a Byzantine chandelier, or "polycandelion" (Greek for "many lights"), made around the seventh century, consists of an openwork bronze disk with holes for seven glass lamps, one in the center and six surrounding it. Referring to the church of Hagia Sophia in Constantinople, illuminated with similar hanging lamps, the poet Paul the Silentiary wrote in 563: "No words are sufficient to describe the illumination in the evening. You might say that some nocturnal sun filled the majestic church with its light."
Date Description Narrative
3/06/1982Treatmentloss compensation; cleaned; other
6/07/1984Loan Considerationexamined for loan
  • 3000 Years of Glass: Treasures from The Walters Art Gallery. The Walters Art Gallery, Baltimore. 1982.
  • Lighting in Early Byzantium. Dumbarton Oaks, Washington. 1984-1985.
Provenance Heidi Vollmoeler, Zurich, by purchase; Walters Art Museum, 1965, by purchase.
Credit Museum purchase, 1965

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6th-8th century (Late Antique)
bronze with traces of enamel or glass
Accession Number
H of polycandelion with lamps and chain: 18 7/16 x Diam: 9 11/16 in. (46.9 x 24.6 cm); H of chain: 16 1/8 in. (41 cm); H of each lamp ranges from 4 5/8 to 5 5/16 in. ( 11.7 to 13.5 cm); Diam of lamp: 3 3/4 in. (9.6 cm); H of lamp stem: 2 5/16 in. (5.9 cm)
Location Within Museum
Not On View


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