Ewer

Ewer

Ewer (or aquamanile)
German (Mosan)
About 1120
Gilt bronze, cast and chased, decorated with silver and niello
Height 18.3cm
Museum No. 1471-1870

Ewers (or aquamanilia) were used both in the home and in church for the washing of hands. They frequently took the shape of real or fantastic creatures. Here the beast most closely resembles a griffin, an animal that combines elements from an eagle and a lion. The mouth acts as the spout: the vessel was filled through a hole in the tail.

The beast shown here owes its form to representations of griffin-like creatures known as 'senmurvs'. Images of these animals were depicted on silk textiles that were imported into north-western Europe from the east. This ewer, therefore, highlights the artistic and trading links between east and west.