Breverman Collection

Web Pages by Brandi McConahay, Web/Collections Intern Fall 2016

Rotating image of two lamps and two vessels Each entry features a rotating view and additional images

About the Collection

In late 2012, Buffalo, New York residents Harvey and Deborah Breverman graciously gave to MUAM more than 120 ancient artifacts from their personal collection, including ceramic oil lamps, vessels, figurative pieces and small bronzes. According to the Brevermans, one of the reasons they decided to donate these art objects was to offer broader possibilities for student and faculty research at Miami University.

During the time these lamps were created, oil lamps were a common part of ancient peoples' lives, providing light in homes, taverns, temples and tombs. They were made of clay, and designed to hold oil in the body, and a wick through the spout. Over time, oil lamp production largely shifted from individual production to mass production through the usage of molds. These molds were frequently made of clay, plaster, or a soft stone such as limestone. The lamps would be made in two parts by pressing a layer of clay over the mold. The two pieces would be matched up and fused together, then sent to the kiln. The use of molds allowed for mass production, which was previously not an option. In addition to increased production, molds also provided the opportunity for imitating popular designs by creating molds from lamps created by others. Some lamps feature makers' marks, which are typically stamps of the maker's name placed on the bottom of the lamp. 

The following are selected highlights of the collection donated by Harvey and Deborah Breverman. Harvey Breverman's art has been featured in 88 solo exhibitions, and he is a SUNY Distinguished Professor of Art at the University of Buffalo. 

Includes information from "Oil Lamps in the Ancient World"


This is a Roman oil lamp with a dolphin on itRoman Oil Lamp with Dolphin

Rome, 2nd century CE
Terracotta
4 1/8" in length
Gift of Harvey and Deborah Breverman, 2013.HB.62

Signed on base: "NOVIUS", Marcus Novius Justus.

This lamp features a maker's mark on the bottom, which was typically reserved for respected lamp makers. Makers' marks could be created using molds, or by hand.


Alabastron image with two lionsAlabastron

Greece, circa 6th century BCE
Terracotta
4" height
Gift of Harvey and Deborah Breverman, 2013.HB.123

Alabastron vessels were typically small and did not have handles, though some featured holes for thread. They are thought to have contained perfume.


Pinched Oil Lamp Pinched Oil Lamp, Iron Age

Holy Land, 100-900 BCE
Terracotta
3 1/2" length
Gift of Harvey and Deborah Breverman, 2013.HB.38

The pinched design was intended to keep the wick upright, and thus easier to burn. This is a common style for the time.


Cypriot wheel made white painted jug Cypriot Wheel-Made White Painted Jug

Cyprus, circa 850-600 BCE
Terracotta
5 1/8" height; 4 1/2" diameter
Gift of Harvey and Deborah Breverman, 2013.HB.107

This vessel is an example of Cypriot bichrome ware, and was popular during the late Bronze Age and Iron Age.


Roman oil lamp with warrior wearing a headdressRoman Oil Lamp with Seated Male Warrior Wearing Headdress

Rome, 2nd-3rd century CE
Terracotta
4 1/4" in length
Gift of Harvey and Deborah Breverman, 2013.HB.6

Lamps such as this one were frequently created using detailed molds of clay, plaster, or a soft stone such as limestone. Oil would have been refilled through the hole on the top, and the wick would have been held up by the spout.


Greek pyxis with lid Greek Pyxis with Lid, Magna Graecia

Greece, 5th century BCE
Terracotta
4 1/2" height; 4 1/4" diameter
Gift of Harvey and Deborah Breverman, 2013.HB.90

Pyxis vessels were likely used to hold small trinkets, such as cosmetics and ointments. They vary in style, but frequently include geometric designs. "Magna Graecia" was a term used to describe a Greek colony in Southern Italy. 


Islamic oil lamp Islamic Oil Lamp

Geographic Location Unknown, circa 700 CE
Terracotta
3 3/4" in length
Gift of Harvey and Deborah Breverman, 2013.HB.45

Islamic oil lamps do not feature human or animal motifs, and instead typically feature geometric and floral motifs. They were most popular between 600-900 CE.


Oinochoe, trefoil, greek black figure vessel with handleOinoche, Trefoil, Greek Black Figure Vessel

Greece, mid-late 6th century CE
Terracotta
4 3/4" height; 3 1/4" diameter
Gift of Harvey and Deborah Breverman, 2013.HB.106

Oinoche vessels were typically used to hold wine in ancient Greece, and can vary in size. Small versions were sometimes associated with children's burials.


Byzantine oil lamp Byzantine Oil Lamp

West Bank, Israel, 330-640 CE
Terracotta
4 1/4" in length
Gift of Harvey and Deborah Breverman, 2013.HB.19

During the Byzantine era, there was a shift to "candlestick" lamps, which frequently featured religious motifs. These styles were popular with both Christian and Jewish communities.


Greek Lekythos vase with black figure drawingsGreek Lekythos Vessel

Greece, second half 5th century BCE
Terracotta
6 1/4" in height; 3" diameter
Gift of Harvey and Deborah Breverman, 2013.HB.110

A Greek Lekythos vase such as this would have been used to hold oil at a bath or gymnasium, or in a funerary setting. These vases typically featured either red-figure or black-figure designs.