- Museum number
Terracotta lamp with a scene of a woman performing cunnilingus on another woman; closed shape, mould-made.
- Production date
Diameter: 7.80 centimetres
- Curator's comments
- Scenes of same-sex female desire are much rarer in Roman culture than of men, especially as oral sex (shown on this lamp) was regarded as shameful in itself, let alone between two people of the same gender. How much statements found in elite writings reflected broader attitudes is less clear however. As with other examples of gender inequality in the Roman world, non-conformity to accepted sexual roles posed a threat to (elite) male identity and power. At the same time, the fact that this image was shown on a mass-produced object such as a lamp suggests that it was widely consumed, if only largely for male amusement and titilation; it also points to the recognition of lesbian sexual practices, however much from a likely male perspective (similar to modern pornography).
See Dumas and Baude 2005, 39, and Hubbard 2003 for Roman written sources. Also Parkinson 2013, 52-53 in the context of a global sample of objects and images reflecting same-sex desire.
Dumas C. and Baude J.-M. (2005), L’érotisme des Gaules (Cazenave: Musée des Baux).
Hubbard T. 2003, Homosexuality in Greece and Rome: A Sourcebook of Basic Documents (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press).
Parkinson R. 2013, A little gay history. Desire and diversity across the world (London: British Museum Press).
- On display (G69/dc6)
- Exhibition history
2010 Jan - April, Nottingham, The University of Nottingham, Lakeside Arts Centre, Roman Sexuality: Images, Myths and Meanings
2014 Feb - May, Isle of Wight, Brading Roman Villa, Roman Sexuality: Images, Myths and Meanings
2018 25 Sep– 2 Dec, Ashmolean Museum, Oxford, Desire, love, identity: exploring LGBTQ histories
2018-2019 14 Dec-3 Mar, National Justice Museum, Desire, love, identity: exploring LGBTQ histories
2019 15 Mar-26 May, Bolton Museum, Desire, love, identity: exploring LGBTQ histories
2019 8 Jun-31 Aug Norfolk & Norwich Millennium Library, Desire, love, identity: exploring LGBTQ histories
2019 21 Sep-17 Nov Shire Hall Historic Courthouse Museum, Dorchester, Desire, love, identity: exploring LGBTQ histories
- Acquisition date
- Acquisition notes
- Formerly in the Mex Collection
- Greek and Roman
- Registration number