An aquamanile (plural aquamanilia or simply aquamaniles) is a special ewer for the washing of hands ("aqua" + "manos") over a basin.

Iranian aquamaniles predate any zoomorphic aquamaniles known in Europe. An Iranian (Abbasid caliphate), Aquamanile in the form of an eagle, bearing the date 180 AH/CE 796-797, of bronze, inlaid with silver and copper, is in the State Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg. The latest in date is also at the State Hermitage Museum, a late pre-Islamic aquamanile from Khorasan, dated 1206. Islamic law deprecated the use of such representational figures, and the zoomorphic aquamanile tradition died out.

The Byzantine Empire's cultural connections with Sassanid Persia and the Abbasid caliphate, never peaceful in the political sphere, nevertheless brought the aquamanile into the Christian Mediterranean world. The earliest European portable aquamaniles date to the eleventh century.

Aquamaniles were needed in Christian liturgy for the ritual of the lavabo, in which the officiating priest washes his hands before vesting, again before the consecration of the Eucharist and after mass. As a ritual object, metal was considered more suitable than pottery, although most examples in pottery no doubt were broken and discarded. The aquamaniles made in the Mosan—or Meuse valley— region, using the brass alloy of silvery tint called "dinanderie" (from the center of its manufacture in the region of Dinant) were often fantastic and zoomorphic in their forms, which were constrained only by the need for a larger opening for filling the vessel and a spout for pouring. Church records inventory aquamaniles in silver or gilt copper, but the great majority of surviving examples are in base metals, which were not worth melting down.

As well as the altar, aquamaniles were used at the tables of the great, where extravagant designs of symbolic or fantastical beasts—lions were especially popular— were developed in purely secular iconography. A gold aquamanile, c 1215, in the treasury of the cathedral at Aachen, takes the form of a man's bust; it is a rare survival of an aquamanile in a precious metal. An aquamanile (ref. Metropolitan Museum) in the form of Aristotle on hands and knees, being ridden by Phyllis, bore several moral lessons, with ribald undertones; such an aquamanile was distinctly secular in nature.

Bronze aquamaniles in the form of leopards were part of court ritual in Benin, where the concept may have arrived from the Islamic north. An eighteenth-century bronze leopard aquamanile from Benin is in the collection of the Minneapolis Institute of Arts.

A late version of the aquamanile was the silver-gilt mounted rider on a stand, bought in 1700 for the treasury of the Basilica of St-Denis and sold in 1798. Its form is recorded in an engraving by Félibien (ref. St-Denis)

The idea of ewers in fantastic shapes has never died out. Today's Toby jugs and cow cream jugs are the direct descendants of the aquamanile.


The following aquamanilia in public collections are set in approximate chronological order:

* [ State Hermitage Museum, Aquamanile in the form of an eagle, signed by "Suleiman" dated 180 AH/796-797]
* [ State Hermitage Museum, aquamanile of a cow with her calf, Khorasan, dated CE 1206] ; the handle is in the form of a lion, attacking the cow by the hump of its back.
* [ Victoria and Albert Museum, Aquamanile in the form of a griffin, ca 1130]
* [ National Gallery of Art, Washington, Aquamanile in the form of a lion, bronze with traces of gilding, North French or Mosan, c 1300] * [ National Gallery of Art, Washington DC, Aquamanile in the form of a mounted horseman, English or Scandinavian, 13th century]
* [ Rijksmuseum, Aquamanile in the form of a horse, bronze, Maas/Meuse region, 13th century]
* [ Wartburg, Eisenach, Aquamanile in the form of a lion, 13th century]
* [ Metropolitan Museum of Art, Aquamanile in the form of a mounted knight, bronze, Saxony, late 13th century]
* [ Metropolitan Museum of Art, Aquamanile in the form of Aristotle and Phyllis, Lorraine, c 1400]
* [ The Cloisters Collection, Aquamanile in the form of a lion, copper alloy, Nuremberg, c 1400]
* [ Rijksmuseum, Aquamanile in the form of a lion, last quarter of the 14th century]
* [ "The Treasure of Saint Denis"]

*Legner, Anton (ed). "Ornamenta Ecclesiae, Kunst und Künstler der Romanik." Catalogue of an exhibition in the Schnütgen Museum, Köln, 1985. 3 vols.

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • Aquamanile — en bronze (ca. 12. 13. siècle) Un aquamanile est un récipient destiné au lavage des mains, soit lors des actions liturgiques (il est alors principalement en métal ou en bronze), soit dans la vie courante (il est alors fabriqué en céramique). Il… …   Wikipédia en Français

  • aquamanile — [ akwamanil ] n. m. • 1885; lat. aquæmanile, de aqua « eau » et manus « main » ♦ Aiguière munie d un bassin pour se laver les mains. ● aquamanile nom masculin (bas latin aquaemanile, du latin classique aqua, eau, et manus, main) Aiguière …   Encyclopédie Universelle

  • AQUAMANILE — Lanfranco Archiepiscopo Canturaiensi Ep. 13. vas dicitur inferius, in quod manibus insusa aqua delabitur. Sicut urceolus vas superius, unde lavandis manibus aqua infunditur. In Ecclesia Romana inter ministeria et vasa sacra, occurrit apud Ioh. de …   Hofmann J. Lexicon universale

  • Aquamanīle — (Aquamănus), das Wassergefäß, in welchem der katholische Priester die Hände wäscht, bevor er bei der Messe die Consecration beginnt. Diese Handlung soll zugleich das Fußwaschen Christi (Joh. 13) bezeichnen …   Pierer's Universal-Lexikon

  • Aquamanīle — (lat.), Metallgefäß, aus dem im Mittelalter das Wasser zur Handwaschung für die Priester vor Verrichtung gottesdienstlicher Handlungen gegossen wurde. Das A. hat gewöhnlich die Form eines natürlich gebildeten oder phantastischen Tieres (Löwe,… …   Meyers Großes Konversations-Lexikon

  • Aquamanile — Aquamanīle (mittellat.), Gießgefäß in Form eines Tieres (Löwe, Greif u. dgl.), um während der Messe Wasser auf die Hände des Priesters zum Waschen zu gießen …   Kleines Konversations-Lexikon

  • Aquamanile — Bronze Aquamanile, Niedersachsen, 2. Hälfte 13. Jahrhundert. Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City Ein Aquamanile (auch: Aquaemanale, Aquimanile, Aquiminale, Aquiminarium) ist ein Gefäß zur Handwaschung, entweder bei liturgischen Handlungen… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Aquamanile — Aqua|ma|ni|le 〈n. 28; im MA〉 Gießgefäß, aus dem während der gottesdienstl. Handlungen dem Priester Wasser über die Hände gegossen wurde [<lat. aqua „Wasser“ + manus „Hand“] * * * Aquamanile   [mittellateinisch] das, / n, Gießgefäß, im… …   Universal-Lexikon

  • Aquamanile — Aqua|ma|ni|le das; , n <aus gleichbed. kirchenlat. aquamanile zu lat. aqua »Wasser« u. manus »Hand«> Gießgefäß od. Schüssel [zur Handwaschung des Priesters bei der Messe] …   Das große Fremdwörterbuch

  • aquamanile —    An aquamanile is a vessel for pouring water used in the ritual of washing hands in both religious and secular contexts by priests before Mass (Christian) and in private households before meals. In form, these ewers are often zoomorphic, and… …   Glossary of Art Terms