Aquamaniles at Various Museums

Collecting sightings of aquamaniles could be a new interest of mine, if I let it be. As one of the info cards explains:

"An aquamanile is an animal- or human-shaped vessel for pouring water used in washing the hands, an essential component of religious and secular rituals in medieval society. The word aquamanile derives from the Latin for 'water' (aqua) and 'hand' (manus)."
(As an info card at the Metropolitan Museum explains)

Julia and I saw a lion shaped aquamanile at LACMA when we went to see the Tut show in 2005:


Aquamanile (ewer)
Northern Germany, Lower Saxony, Hildeshiem?, c. 1250
Brass (copper alloy)

"Hildesheim was a major metalworking center in northwestern Germany during the thirteenth century. The aquamanile was a vessel to contain water for washing the hands. It was often made in the form of a lion which was a symbol of power and strength." (From the label)

Oregon's Portland Art Museum has a similar lion-shaped aquamanile:


Brass Aquamanile
North German, 1200-1500
Museum Purchase: Funds provided by the Children's Museum Fund, #44.1


Detail of Portland aquamanile

Julia and I saw another at the National Gallery of Art shaped like a horse and rider:


Aquamanile in the Form of a Horseman 13th century
Bronze, probably English or Scandinavian

The designs are often fanciful. Here's a Griffin aquamanile:


From Germany (Nuremberg), ca. 1425-50)
Metropolitan Museum, Robert Lehman Collection, 1975
1975.1.1413


Aquamanile in the form of a lion
Copper alloy, Germany (lower Saxony), 13-14th century
Also at Metropolitan Museum

Here's a very special one, seen at the Met museum in 2008:


Dragon Aquamanile
Gilded copper alloy with mello (a black metal alloy used to fill incised
designed on silver) and silver overlay
Mosan (Meuse Valley, modern Belgium or Germany), cd. 1120
Victoria & Albert Museum (1471-1870)

"This aquamanile, inspired by textile designs from the Near East, is perhaps the earliest surviving Western example. It is both beautiful and witty, as water- rather than fire-poured from the dragon's mouth."

This piece is from a special exhibit, "Medieval and Renaissance Treasures from the Victoria and Albert Museum - May 20, 2008ľAugust 17, 2008". The London museum was undergoing renovations, hence we were very lucky Stateside to see some of their finest treasures that are rarely lent.

Photos from Brooklyn Museum - "Art for Eternity"
Photos from Metropolitan Museum - Egyptian Galleries
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