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  • Place of origin:

    Lower Saxony (made)

  • Date:

    1200-1250 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:


  • Materials and Techniques:

    Copper alloy, cast

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    Medieval & Renaissance, Room 8, The William and Eileen Ruddock Gallery, case 10

An aquamanile was a jug used both in the home and at church to wash hands (aqua = water manus= hand). They were made from precious metals, base metals or ceramics. From the 12th century onwards aquamaniles depicting lions, horses, dragons and other beasts were very popular. This object may have been made in tribute to Henry the Lion (1129-1195), the Duke of Saxony and Bavaria.

Physical description

Copper alloy, in the form of a standing lion with a full mane. The handle, in the form of a serpent, is attached to the lion's head and the root of his tail. The spout of the vessel issues from the mouth of the lion. Water is poured into the aquamanile through a covered hole at the top of the lion's head.

Place of Origin

Lower Saxony (made)


1200-1250 (made)



Materials and Techniques

Copper alloy, cast


Height: 29.5 cm, Width: 30.6 cm, Depth: 12.4 cm, Weight: 3.44 kg

Object history note


Historical significance: This aquamanile is thought to have been made in either Brunswick or Hildesheim as there was great activity in metal sculpture in these areas at this time. The significance of the aquamanile's shape may therefore relate to Henry the Lion (1129-1195), Duke of Saxony and Bavaria. Perhaps the vessel was made in tribute to him. In addition to this possible regional connection, the lion had a more general significance. It was a popular symbol of lordship and power. This object could have been designed to convey the status and importance of its owner.

Historical context note

An aquamanile (aqua= water, manus=hand), is a vessel used for washing hands. They were used during the Mass or at the secular table. From the 12th century onwards ewers depicting creatures such as lions, horses, unicorns, dragons and birds were very popular. They were made both in precious metals, base metals and ceramics.

Descriptive line

Bronze, in the form of a lion

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

Barnet, Peter and Pete Dandridge, eds. Lions, Dragons, & Other Beasts: Aquamanilia of the Middle Ages, Vessels for Church and Table. New York: Bard Graduate Center, 2006.
Mende, Ursula. Die Mittelalterlichen Bronzen im Germanischen Nationalmuseum. Bestandskatalog. Nuremberg: Germanischen Nationalmuseums, 2013. ISBN 9783936688627

Labels and date

Cast brass
North German (Hildesheim); 1100-50 []

Production Note

Brunswick or Hildesheim



Subjects depicted





Metalwork Collection

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