The University of Western Australia

Five Lamps of Learning

Further information

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Napier Waller is responsible for both the conceptual design and production of the mosaic known as the ‘Five Lamps of Learning’.


The Artist

"[The phrase Five Lamps of Learning] is in fact original, the result of a combination of ideas in the mind of Mr Napier Waller, the artist who was responsible for its creation." (1)

He was commissioned in 1931 by the University to produce a mosaic that would have some relation to both the opus sectile design of the clock in the University Tower and the University’s motto ‘Seek Wisdom’. (2)


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Concepts behind the design

The mosaic presents the viewer with five figures. They represent five of the seven virtues of wisdom taken from Isaiah (XI.2). They are: Sapientia (wisdom), Intellectus (understanding), Consilium (counsel), Fortitudo (courage) and Scientia (knowledge).

Napier Waller wrote the following in a letter, dated 12 January 1959, to Vice-Chancellor Prescott:

"As you see there are seven gifts of the Spirit; but in my design I have excluded Piety and Fear (of God.) The five windows below also suggested to me that the five gifts of the Spirit could become the five lamps of the wise virgins of Jesus’ parable, with each lighted lamp being one of the expressions of complete wisdom, as read on the soffits of the window below." (3)

This stunning Mosaic is located above the Great Gate that joins Winthrop Hall and the old Arts and Administration Building.


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(1) Jones, J. Lecturer Classics and Ancient History. (1959). University Gazette 9(3):49.
(2) Jones, J. Lecturer Classics and Ancient History. (1959). University Gazette 9(3):49.
(3) University Archives. The Five Lamps of Learning Pamphlet File. Letter to J.R. Jones Department of Classics and Ancient History from Napier Waller.

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