An aquamanile is a vessel for pouring water used in the ritual of washing hands in both religious and secular contexts—by the priest before Mass and in a private household before a meal. The subject of this celebrated example is the moralizing legend of Aristotle and Phyllis, which achieved popularity in the late Middle Ages. Aristotle, the Greek philosopher and tutor of Alexander the Great, allowed himself to be humiliated by the seductive Phyllis as a lesson to the young ruler, who had succumbed to her wiles and neglected the affairs of state. Encouraging Alexander to witness his folly, Aristotle explained that if he, an old man, could be so easily deceived, the potential consequences for a young man were even more perilous. The ribald subject indicates that this aquamanile was made for a domestic setting, where it would have doubled as an object of entertainment for guests at the table.
Maurice Chabrières-Arlès, Oullins, until 1903; [Duveen Brothers, New York]. Acquired by Philip Lehman through Duveen in 1919.
Date: ca. 1380–1400Medium: Bronze; quaternary copper alloy (approx. 78% copper, approx. 10% zinc, approx. 6% tin, approx. 5% lead) with natural patina. Remnants of the iron armature are in the lion’s legs and the figure of Samson.Accession: 1975.1.1412On view in:Not on view
Date: ca. 1350Medium: Bronze; Quaternary copper alloy with a high content of zinc (approx. 73% copper, approx. 15% zinc, approx. 7% lead, approx. 3% tin) with natural patina, hollow cast; remnants of the clay core
and iron armature in the legsAccession: 1975.1.1409On view in:Not on view
Date: ca. 1425–50Medium: Bronze; Ternary copper alloy with a very high content of zinc (approx. 74%
copper, approx. 22% zinc, approx. 2% lead) with natural patina, hollow cast.Accession: 1975.1.1413On view in:Not on view
Date: last quarter 19th centuryMedium: Bronze; Ternary copper alloy with a very high percentage of zinc (approx. 68% copper,
approx. 26% zinc, approx. 4% tin), covered with a thin black lacquer patina; traces of cinnabar have been detected on the interior and exterior of the vessel.Accession: 1975.1.1415On view in:Not on view