- Museum number
Gilt-copper alloy spouted vessel, cast and with everted rim, rounded belly and waisted foot, decorated with incised and relief ornament; possibly a cruet. The handle is formed of a twisted snake emerging from the head of an animal at the rim, where there are the remains of a hinge for the lid, now lost. The spout is in the form of an animal head with lentoid eyes, a collar of incised grooves, and spiral shoulders above a sub-triangular grooved chest. Above the spout is a winged quadruped, holding its tail, and biting its own foreleg. The body of the vessel is decorated with two groups of five reliefs symmetrically arranged on either side of the spout, and separated by small animal masks. Each relief consists of a pair of addorsed birds with panelled wings pecking at a central foliate spray. The foot is surrounded by a plain moulding, and decorated with continuous formalised palmette ornament against a pointillé background. The underside of the foot is also gilded.
- Production date
- 10thC (first half)
Height: 7.20 centimetres
- Curator's comments
Webster et al 1984
This tiny spouted jug was identified by Kendrick (Kendrick, T.D. 1938b, An Anglo-Saxon Cruet, ‘Antiquaries Journal’ 18, 377-81) as a cruet (the vessel from which the wine and water were poured into the chalice during the Mass). This interpretation has not been universally accepted (Wilson 1964, 57), but if Kendrick is correct, this object is one of the very few liturgical vessels to survive from the Anglo-Saxon period. Judging from contemporary sources, the ecclesiastical metalwork belonging to the churches and monasteries of pre-Conquest England must have been very fine indeed; for example, at Abingdon “the blessed Æthelwold enriched that house . . . with the most precious adornments. For, as we learn from the testimony of the ancient books he gave a golden chalice of great weight... He also gave three extremely beautiful crucifixes of silver and pure gold . . . He also adorned the church with Gospel Books made from pure silver and gold as well as with the most precious gems, with censers and cruets, cast basins and silver repoussé candelabras, and many other objects appropriate both for the monks' rites about the altar and for the comeliness of the church” (‘Chronicon Abingdon’, 344, cited in Dodwell, C.R. 1982, ‘Anglo-Saxon Art: A New Perspective’, Manchester, 203).
Although he dated it to the eleventh century, the parallels Kendrick cited for the ornament belong to the first half of the tenth. He compared the pairs of addorsed birds on the relief panels with birds in the borders of the dedication page of the Corpus Christi College copy of Bede's ‘Lives of St Cuthbert’ (MS 183 (cat. 6)), c.934/9, and the spiral shoulders of the beast on the spout to an initial in the ‘Durham Ritual’ (Durham, Cathedral Library, MS A.IV.19 (cat. 7)) (Kendrick 1938b, 381, fig. 2), dated to the early tenth century. Wilson (1964), however, gives a Viking origin for this feature. These comparisons suggest that the cruet may be one of the earlier examples of Winchester-style metalwork, a hypothesis given new support by its stylistic closeness to the recently discovered Winchester strap end (Winchester, City Museums, Winchester Research Unit, CG SF 1396 (cat. 83)), which belongs to the first half of the tenth century.
Provenance: In Lord Londesborough's collection by 1857.
Bibliography: Ross, M. 1940, An Eleventh Century Bookcover, ‘The Art Bulletin’ 22, no. 2, 85, figs 3-4; Wilson, D.M. 1975, Tenth-Century Metalwork, ‘Tenth Century Studies’ ed. D. Parsons, London, 202-4, PL. XIIIa; Wilson, D.M. 1984, ‘Anglo-Saxon Art’, London, 160, 164, PL. 210.
The object was at one time in the Londesborough collection (see Fairholt (1857)). It is probable that Franks bought it from that collection after the death of Lord Londesborough.
A letter from Dr. H. J. Plenderleith, the Keeper of the Research Laboratory at the British Museum (31 July 1936) reads '. . . it is a cire perdue casting in one piece covered with a wash of copper and then gilt. . . . I believe the tooling around (the) foot rim has been added after casting. . . .'
Tenth century. No recorded provenance.
See pp. 43, 44, 46, 50, 57 and pl. XLIII.
Bibliography: Fairholt, F. W. (1857): Miscellanea Graphica, London, pl. xxi, 4; Kendrick, T. D. (1938c): 'An Anglo-Saxon Cruet', The Antiquaries Journal, xviii, 377-81; Kendrick, T. D. (1949): Late Saxon and Viking Art, London, 41 and pl. xxxvi, 3; Talbot Rice, D. (1952): English Art, 871-1100, Oxford, 234 and pl. 90 b; Swarzenski, H. (1954), Monuments of Romanesque Art, London, 49 and pl. 65, 149; Arbman, H. (1958): 'Die Kremsmünsterer Leuchter', Meddelanden från Lunds Universitets Historiska Museum, 190.
- Not on display
- Exhibition history
2001 27 Aug-2 Dec, Germany, Magdeburg, Kulturhistorisches Museum, Otto the Great: Magdeburg and Europe
1993 15 Aug-28 Nov, Germany, Hildesheim, Roemer und Pelizaeus Museum, Bernward von Hildesheim und das Zeitalter der Ottonen
- Acquisition date
- Britain, Europe and Prehistory
- Registration number