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Lions, Dragons, and other Beasts: Aquamanilia of the Middle Ages - Vessels for Church and Table Bild Und Bestie: Hildesheimer Bronzen Der Stauferzeit

Seen in a few illustrations of feasts and eating utensils are aquamaniles – a sort of pitcher used for hand-washing. Typical forms include animals, mounted knights or horsemen, and fantasical monsters; most of the surviving examples seem to be metal, but there are several ceramic examples too.

See also for an interesting study of metal aquamaniles. Gothic and Renaissance Art in Nuremberg, 1300-1550 also has a section on aquamaniles (also available on Amazon).

(The medieval English word for an aquamanile seems to be laver.)

Following are examples of aquamaniles from museum collections and from medieval artwork. I am grouping them by form to provide better comparisons across different designs and styles. While lions appear with the greatest frequency among surviving examples, there are many other forms, including birds, centaurs, deer, dogs, dragons, gryphons, horses, humans (often on horseback), rams, and unicorns.

Last updated: Nov 8, 2021

  • Hermitage ИР-1567, an eagle, bronze with silver and copper, Iraq, 796-797
  • Louvre MR 1569, a peacock, Spain, c. 972
  • Musée Ducal 709, 12th century; painted in a Byzantine faience style, ornamented with green glaze, geometric motifs, and fish scales
  • Met 1989.292, a rooster, copper alloy, Lower Saxony, 13th century
  • GNM KG490, a rooster, Lower Saxony, 13th century

  • Wolf (?) with a bird in its mouth and a smaller animal on its back, Germanic, 13th century
  • Boijmans KB 54 (KN&V), brass, 1350-1400, Germany
  • GNM KG583, Nuremburg, second quarter of the 15th century

  • Ram, ceramic, made in Scarborough between the late 12th and early 14th century
  • Met 2007.142, Scarborough, c. 1250-1350

  • Cluny Cl.2136, bronze, Lower Saxony, 4th quarter of the 13th century-1st quarter of the 14th century
  • Met 64.101.1493, copper alloy, Nuremburg, c. 1425-1450

Other Ceramic Aquamaniles

These tend to be a bit blobby; the actual animal intended is sometimes quite vague.

Other Aquamaniles

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