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Lion mask door pull

ca. 1425–50
Made in Nuremberg, Germany
Copper alloy
Overall: 8 7/8 x 7 7/16 x 2 5/16 in. (22.5 x 18.9 x 5.9 cm) Back Plate only: 7 15/16 x 7 7/16 x 2 5/16 in. (20.2 x 18.9 x 5.9 cm)
Metalwork-Copper alloy
Credit Line:
Purchase, Gift of George Blumenthal, by exchange, 2007
Accession Number:
  • Description

    Door pulls in the form of lion masks were a feature of many medieval churches throughout the Middle Ages. Such pulls functioned not only as decorative door hardware but also as sanctuary rings, symbols of the protection the church offered to those fleeing legal prosecution and other dangers.
    This bold example was cast in copper alloy, and the radiating locks of hair representing the mane were reinforced with an engraving tool after casting. Stylistic and elemental analyses reveal that this door pull was likely made in the first half of the fifteenth century in Nuremberg, in southern Germany, where prolific workshops also created impressive aquamanilia (water vessels in animal and human form used for washing hands) and other cast objects. It is strikingly close to a pair of door pulls still found on the doors of the Cathedral of Augsburg, in Bavaria, and another closely related example is in the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. This group of door pulls, and the strong similarities among many aquamanilia made in fifteenth-century Nuremberg, suggest that by the end of the Middle Ages metalwork shops in southern Germany had begun serially producing such objects.

  • Provenance

    Wilhelm Clemens, Cologne; Johannes Jantzen, Bremen; [ A. S. Drey, Munich (sold 1936)]; [ Paul Graupe, Berlin (June 17-18, 1936, lot 188)]; Kunstgewerbemuseum, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin(1936–2006); Restituted to the heirs of the Drey Family(2006); [ Sotheby's, London(December 8, 2006, lot 14)]

  • See also
    In the Museum
    Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History