Zoomorphic water vessel made of terracotta in the
shape of a bull standing foursquare with dark brown
slip over whole, incised and moulded decoration;
stout body of tapering cylindrical form with blunt
rear at one end giving rise to applied filling-spout
and short, rounded tail; applied, pierced breastplate
at other end rising through broad, triangular neck
to narrow, angular head flanked by laterally
protruding ears and topped by twin horns; incised
eyes and circle to apex of horns.
From ACE 390 onwards, the Land of Israel and Judah
became a part of the Eastern Roman Empire known
as the Byzantine Empire, which would endure until
ACE 611. This piece marks the span of a period
heavily shaped and defined by a Christian majority,
the result of mass Christian migration into the
Roman province of Palestine following the collapse
of the Western Roman Empire in 5th century ACE.
The force of tradition in Byzantine art is great. That
forms, processes and techniques stem from the
depths of Antiquity is irrefutable. Constantinople,
capital of the Byzantine Empire and hub of world
culture was connected by its very location to both
Greece and Central Asia. It was in constant
commercial and political contact with the most
powerful dynasties of the East, particularly Persia. In
the arts, we see influence across a vast area that
incorporates both Greek and Eastern influence,
which is appreciable at every turn.
The aquamanile was brought into the Christian
Mediterranean world through the Byzantine Empire’s
cultural connections with Sassanid Persia. Though
the origins of the vessel can actually be traced
outside Mesopotamia to ancient Cyprus. We have
excellent examples of comparable bull-shaped
water vessels used for hand washing known as
rythons dating 1550 BCE, which similarly bear
rotund, stout bodies and short legs.
Close contact with the Aegean and Mycenaean
settlement in 1230 BCE resulted in the gradual
hellenization of Cyprus and synthesis of cultures.
Intermittent periods of Persian rule from 8th century
onwards connected Cyrus and Persia. One begins to
form an impression of the spread of influences
throughout the ancient world at this time.
However, rather than combine diverse elements,
artisans proved truly innovative and made
appropriated forms their own.
Used to store water for hand washing over a basin,
which was a part both of upper-class meals and the