- Museum number
Bowl; pottery; buff ware; covered with a vitreous glaze; interior, incised in the paste, a three-quarter figure of Christ seated with three horizontal lines running horizontally behind him; two circular medallions with profile heads above these; one intended for Constantine the Great, the other for the Empress Fausta; round the edge, two bands of three lines and an inscription between them; exterior, a chequer pattern, outlines in relief, and the hollows filled alternately with white and light blue glaze; the foot-rim encloses radiating lines in relief glazed a canary yellow.
- Production date
Diameter: 127 millimetres
Height: 49 millimetres
- Curator's comments
- Jones 1990
The 'Constantine bowl'
Although he had previously turned it down, this bowl was successfully sold to the collector Count Tyszkiewicz by a Roman dealer who had 'discovered' in its interior a previously unsuspected representation of Christ, together with two busts identified by a Latin inscription as the Roman Emperor Constantine the Great and his second wife, Fausta.
While the bowl itself may be ancient, the engraved decoration of the interior, including the inscription purporting to date from Constantine's second marriage (AD 307-26), cannot belong to the Early Christian period. Both the beard and the cross-halo of Christ are anachronisms (probably copied from an eleventh-century Italo-Byzantine mosaic of the Last Judgement).
Other mistakes include the badly misunderstood costume, the seated pose with no provision for anything to sit on, and the bizarre termination of the figure between knee and ankle. The engraved decoration was probably executed late in the nineteenth-century, just before it was sold to Count Tyszkiewicz.
Literature: H. Wallis, Egyptian Ceramic Art: Typical Examples of the Art of the Egyptian Potter, London 1900, pp. 28-37, pl. XII; J. Strzygowski, 'Die Konstantin-Schale im British Museum', Orient oder Rom: Beiträge zur Geschichte der spätantiken und frühchristlichen Kunst (1901), pp. 61-4; J. Wilpert, 'Die "Konstantin-Schale" des British-Museum', Römische Quartalschrift für Archäologie und Kirchengeschichte 21 (1907), pp. 107-16.
- Not on display
- Large portion, lower right missing.
- Acquisition date
- Acquisition notes
- See H. Wallis, Egyptian Ceramic Art: Typical Examples of the Art of the Egyptian Potter (London 1900) 29-30.
- Britain, Europe and Prehistory
- Registration number