Art/ Collection/ Art Object

Aquamanile in the Form of a Dragon

ca. 1200
North German
Copper alloy
Overall: 8 3/4 x 7 1/4 in., 4.4 lb. (22.2 x 18.4 cm, 2 kg)
Overall PD: 8 3/8 x 4 3/8 x 7 3/16 in. (21.2 x 11.1 x 18.2 cm)
Thickness PD: 3/25 in. (0.3 cm)
Metalwork-Copper alloy
Credit Line:
The Cloisters Collection, 1947
Accession Number:
On view at The Met Cloisters in Gallery 01
Aquamaniles, which are water vessels used for washing hands, served both liturgical and secular purposes. Those made in the shape of an animal are among the most distinctive products of medieval craftsmen. The most commonly seen zoomorphic aquamaniles are lions, but dragons, griffins, and many other forms were also produced (see acc. nos. 47.101.51, 1994.244).

This striking vessel represents a dragon, which is supported by its legs in front and on the tips of its wings behind, with a tail that curls up into a handle. It was filled through an opening in the tail, now missing its hinged cover. Water was poured out through the spout formed by the hooded or cowled figure held between the dragon's teeth. In addition to its visual power, this aquamanile is distinguished by fine casting, visible in the carefully chased dragon's scales and other surface details.
Hubert de Pourtalès, Château Martinvast, Normandy (sold 1936) ; [ Brummer Gallery (1936, through Guiraud Frères–sold 1947)]
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. "Arts of the Middle Ages: A Loan Exhibition," February 17, 1940–March 24, 1940.

New York. Bard Graduate Center: Decorative Arts, Design History, Material Culture. "Lions, Dragons, and Other Beasts: Aquamanilia of the Middle Ages. Vessels for Church and Table," July 12, 2006–October 15, 2006.

Hildesheim, Germany. Dom-Museum Hildesheim (Cathedral Museum). "Bild und Bestie : Hildesheimer Bronzen der Stauferzeit," May 31, 2008–October 5, 2008.

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