Polycandelon (chandelier)

This bronze light fixture consists of a central circular celestial motif from which extend twelve arms in a radial pattern. Six of these arms, embellished with maltese crosses, end in omega-shaped terminals. These decorated arms alternate with six unadorned arms that terminate in rings designed to hold glass oil lamps. The entire disk is suspended from three bronze chains joined to a large hook.
Artist Unknown, Coptic, Egypt
500-599
This remarkably well-preserved bronze polycandelon from Coptic Egypt features six rings around its circumference that were designed to hold conical or beaker-shaped glass oil lamps. Similar bronze polycandela were common throughout the eastern Mediterranean and were used to light the interiors of both sacred and domestic structures, but the maltese crosses on six of the radial arms of this polycandelon suggest that it originally hung in a church. Another repeated Christian motif occurs around the edge of the polycandelon where the six rings for the oil lamps alternate with six terminals in the shape of an omega--the last letter of the Greek alphabet, which was associated with Christ who declared "I am the Alpha and the Omega" (Revelation 1:8 and 22:13). These Christian symbols together with the celestial motif at the center of the polycandelon might have imbued the light cast by this fixture with a religious significance beyond its solely utilitarian function.
Museum Purchase
1965/2.54
Wednesday, August 5, 2020