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HOME : Decorative Arts : Masterpieces : Enamel Inlaid Gilt Bronze Bowl
Enamel Inlaid Gilt Bronze Bowl - FZ.304
Origin: Europe (Limouges, Île-de-France)
Circa: 1200 AD to 1400 AD
Dimensions: 1.5" (3.8cm) high x 8.75" (22.2cm) wide
Collection: Decorative
Medium: Bronze, Gold, Enamel

Location: Great Britain
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The overall composition is highly geometric: encasing the central circle are four larger intersecting half- circles. Various figures and animals fill the spaces, the background of which are all decorated with curvilinear vine motifs. In the central circular field, there is a haloed medieval saint conversing to a hooded figure. The central circle is outlined by a band of intersecting white and red triangles. In the surrounding pointed arches with azure field, there are four coat of arms that bear lion, crescents and an impaled heraldry. The spaces created by the four outermost circles are coloured in ultramarine. There are knights that appear to be battling mythological creatures.

In the four corners created by the four large circles, there are four Norman- style castle gates with embattled parapets and their crenellated form is echoed by the tooth-like decorations that adorn the rim of the bowl. The forms have been chased into the bronze bowl and the receding fields are inlaid with enamel.

From the comparative examples, it is likely that the polychromy of the object has been achieved by enamelling techniques that were at its peak at Limoges, Île-de-France in the thirteenth century. The bronze bowl would have first been chased, pressing all the spaces apart from the outlines to realise the overall compositional format. Then, the enamel would have been applied on all recessed surfaces. Remaining areas of bronze were then gilt in gold. The inside of the bowl is exquisitely decorated from the rim to the centre, with opaque ultramarine, azure, red and white champlevé enamel inlays in the repousséd outlines.

The relative intact enamel decorations and the lack of wear and tear may suggest that this object was not regularly used, however, existed more as a decorative piece. Given the religious nature of the iconography and the stylistic similarity to the Byzantine mosaic traditions in the Orthodox church, it is highly probable that this bronze bowl was used in liturgical context. Medieval art historians speculate that such decorative bowls were often used for baptism or washing of the hands in the Liturgy. (McRoberts, 1963, p. 303) Given the relatively small size of this bowl (22.2 diameter), they probably served the latter purpose. (SY)
- (FZ.304)


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