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Lion Aquamanile

The Latin origins of the term aquamanile-aqua meaning water and manus meaning hand-describe the function of this lively bronze lion. Such hollow cast vessels, often taking the form of animals, were used throughout Europe from the twelfth through the sixteenth century to dispense water for hand washing. Aquamanilia commonly served in liturgical settings, but this roaring lion, a well-known symbol of fortitude, is believed to have been made for secular use. The design balances the natural form and energy of the lion with an elegant stylization of features. For example, the tail, which would have functioned as the handle, is deeply incised with a distinctive, flamelike pattern of tufts that heighten the sense of movement while adding decorative richness to the surface. The superb quality of craftsmanship and the high nickel content of the alloy are characteristic of Nuremberg metalwork in the later medieval era.

From Bulletin of the Detroit Institute of Arts 89 (2015)

Credit: Museum Purchase, Robert H. Tannahill Foundation Fund, Mr. and Mrs. Richard Brodie provided funds for the Spigot

1425-1450
Copper alloy
11.5 x 9.0in
2008.1
Image and text courtesy of Detroit Institute of Arts Gallery, 2022

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Detroit Institute of Arts
Detroit Institute of Arts
Permanent collection