Laurent Chrzanovski, Lampes antiques, byzantines et islamiques du Nil à l’Oronte. La Collection Bouvier, Warsaw: PCMA, University of Warsaw Press, 2019
ISBN 978-83-235-4058-8 (print)
ISBN 978-83-235-4066-3 (online)
478 pages color + 238 plates B&W
The Bouvier Collection presents a corpus of almost 800 clay oil lamps from Egypt and the Near East, collected by the Swiss Maurice Bouvier in Alexandria in the first half of the 20th century. Far from collections reflecting their owner’s aesthetic taste or iconographic predilection, the series of lamps published in this volume builds a true panoply of almost all the typologies attested in Egypt from the Phoenician period to the Mamluk sultanate, with a large appendix on Near Eastern types, acquired during trips to Lebanon and Syria. This Swiss collection today is second only to the holdings of the Benaki Museum in Athens.
The volume is a milestone of Egyptian, Syrian and Lebanese lychnological studies. The presentation of the material offers in effect a long awaited synthesis of a field that is both difficult and still understudied. The corpus of lamps in the catalogue covers all the major historical periods, bringing to the fore many local specificities of Egypt and the Near East, from Phoenician times through the Mamluk period. Complementing the catalogue are reviews of the producer’s marks on the bases of the lamps and of the iconographic motifs decorating the discuses of Roman lamps. These will be a ready aid for studies of the actual lamps, both produced locally in Egypt and imports, as well as of the dissemination of decorative motifs. This synthetic and diachronic approach is illustrated by a set of exceptional photographs taken by the collector’s grandson, Marc Bouvier.
Students of this category of objects from Egypt and the Near East are also given an exhaustive bibliography on the subject collected by the author, an expert lychnologist, who has dedicated the past twenty years to research on lighting devices and ancient oil lamps in particular, including anthropological, social, religious and macro-economic aspects.