• Aquamanile Shaped like an Eagle

    Technique:
    cast and decorated with inlay
    Dimensions:
    h. 38 cm

Aquamanile Shaped like an Eagle

Iraq (?), 796-797

This bronze (or brass) figure of an eagle was originally an aquamanile or water-jug, although the opening in the lower part of the body, between the feet, prompts the suggestion that at some time this object served as a weathervane. (A similar figure served for many years, if not centuries, as a weathervane on the cathedral tower of Lucca in Italy and was discovered only in the 1950s.) It is very interesting and important for the history of bronze-working in the Near East after the spread of Islam to the region to note that this figure retains remnants of silver and copper inlay. The art of inlay-work made tremendous advances in this region in the 12th to 14th century and brought fame to the coppersmiths of the Islamic world. The eagle's neck carries an Arabic inscription in the plain Kufic script. "In the name of Allah the All-Merciful, the Mercy-Giving. Blessings [from] Allah. This was made by Suleiman in the city of ... [?]. In the year one hundred and eighty." (The year 180 AH corresponds to 796/797 AD.) The figure of an eagle is the oldest precisely dated bronze object from the Near East after the arrival of the new, Islamic religion. Sadly it has not yet proved possible to decipher the name of the city as the outlines of the letters in the Kufic script permit a variety of readings. All that can be surmised at present is that the eagle was made in the central regions of the Arab Caliphate (Iraq or Syria) as the art of inlaying bronze objects spread to both eastern and western areas of the Islamic world only in the 12th-13th centuries and reached its peak in the 14th. Three aquamaniles of similar shape have survived (in the Museum of Islamic Art in Berlin, in the Italian city of Lucca and in St Catherine's Monastery on Mount Sinai), but only the Hermitage exhibit bears a date and it may be the oldest of all four figured vessels.

Title:

Aquamanile Shaped like an Eagle

Place of creation:

Date:

Technique:

cast and decorated with inlay

Dimensions:

h. 38 cm

Acquisition date:

Entered the Hermitage in 1939; transferred from the Chechen-Ingush Museum

Inventory Number:

ИР-1567

Category:

Collection:

User collections including this work of art: