Table Lighter, Melillo, c.1890



the form derived from ancient Roman bronze oil lamps, the curved and elongated handle terminating in a cast and chased eagle’s head staring at a delicately modelled mouse seated by the wick, the aperture for the lighting fluid situated beneath a silver cover, topped with a cluster of three stylised cloves.

Signed: ‘G.Melillo, Napoli’
Naples, c.1890

Length: 11.5cm
Height: 8.2cm


Giacinto Melillo (1846-1915) took over the management of Alessandro Castellani’s workshop in Naples in 1870. He is famous for creating jewellery and works of art which were inspired by classical antiquities. Between 1870 and 1900, he exhibited his work at fifteen international exhibitions, winning gold medals at five of them.

The seated mouse and distinctive animal head handle are both motifs seen on ancient bronze oil lamps which were discovered in the Mediterranean during the 19th Century and which date from the 1st-2nd Century AD. Many were excavated from archaeological sites in and around Naples and the Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Napoli has numerous examples in the collection. Melillo would have undoubtedly seen and handled these ancient prototypes and decided to adapt the form to be used as a table lighter.

For more information about Giacinto Melillo and his work, please click on the link below:

Giacinto Melillo, The Connoiseur, 1977