Late 15th to early 16th century
Museum no. M.353-1924
Lambs have long been used as symbols of sacrifice. The lamb was the sacrificial animal in ancient religious rites, including those of the Hebrews, and was adopted by early Christians as the symbol of Christ in his sacrificial role. From its other attributes, real or imaginary, the lamb has also been associated with innocence, gentleness, patience and humility. This lamb decorates the inside of a brass basin and symbolises the Agnus Dei (Lamb of God). Northern European brass basins dating from the 15th century adopted a form that had been popular since medieval times, with a small diameter and deep sides. The whole of the bottom of the inside of these basins was covered with relief decoration. The subject matter usually fell into one of three categories: scenes from classical antiquity, themes from the Old or New Testaments, or allegorical figures personifying vices and virtues. Such basins stood on buffets in middle-class town houses.