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HOME : Byzantine Art : Byzantine Metalwork : Large Bronze Ribbed Vessel
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Large Bronze Ribbed Vessel - LA.533 (LSO)
Origin: Eastern Mediterranean
Circa: 9 th Century AD to 11 th Century AD
Dimensions: 16.75" (42.5cm) high
Collection: Biblical Antiquities
Medium: Bronze

Location: UAE
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This outstanding ribbed bronze vessel dates to the Late Byzantine era, whose power was centred in Constantinople, and the period when the European Crusaders had set their sights on the “liberation” of the Holy Land. Its large size suggests a secular function, possibly as a water container. It is unusually manufactured and decorated. The “ground” is horizontal ribbing that rises from the faceted base to sloped shoulders and a tubular, high spout. The spout itself is decorated with a series of medallions and a separate decorative band around the apex. The neck of the vessel is bound with wire extensions to the handles that rise vertically from the shoulders to just above the rim attaching to the decorative band mentioned above. The decoration on the band and medallions is of uncertain function, but is likely – characteristic of the time – to be some form of religious invocation or blessing.

Byzantium was the largest power in the Mediterranean for over a thousand years. It went from being a comparatively small power on the Bosphorus to becoming Roma Nova (following the collapse of the Roman Empire proper) and from there to Constantinople. It possessed incredible wealth in both fiscal and intellectual terms, and was the most important repository of early Christian art in the world. The ecclesiastical imagery that was produced there was replicated and then built upon in the European Renaissance following the sack of Constantinople during the Crusades, under the inadvertent benediction of the ironically named Pope Innocent III.

Byzantine metalwork is of exceptional quality, and even comparatively utilitarian vessels were often constructed or decorated to a level far beyond that which would be expected. The current piece is a good example of this. The ribbing is exceptionally difficult to produce, and the object would have had to be hammered, reheated and hammered repeatedly to get the appropriate texture. The addition of the (probably) religious imagery also speaks of considerable investment of time and effort, and it is probable that the piece would have belonged to an aristocratic household somewhere in the Eastern Mediterranean. It is in itself a striking piece, and in our eyes a magnificent work of art and a direct link to a lost empire. - (LA.533 (LSO))


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