Jewish Museum Acquires Rare Lion Aquamanile At Sotheby’s Auction

Aquamanile for ritual hand washing, possibly Magdeberg, late Twelfth Century with Sixteenth Century inscription, bronze, 8 9/16 by 3 7/8 by 10 11/16 inches. The Jewish Museum, New York City. Photo courtesy Sotheby’s.

NEW YORK CITY — The Jewish Museum has acquired a rare, late Twelfth Century North German bronze lion aquamanile for its collection. The work was purchased from the Michael and Judy Steinhardt Judaica collection sale at Sotheby’s on April 22.

The piece features a Sixteenth Century Hebrew inscription on the lion’s side. Aquamanilia are figural vessels typically containing water and used for washing hands — this particular example was adopted for Jewish religious ceremonial use, probably in a synagogue. It bears a dedicatory inscription from a young man, Berekhiah Segal (the Levite), which suggests that it was donated to a synagogue possibly for use by a Levite, who would wash the hands of a priestly descendent before he blessed the congregation.

“We are delighted to add this rare and fascinating work to the Jewish Museum’s collection,” said Susan L. Braunstein, the museum’s Henry J. Leir curator. “The piece is an engaging example of the lion aquamanile form, simple in its ornamentation but striking. There are currently only two other known aquamanilia from the medieval era bearing Hebrew inscriptions.”

The museum is at 1109 Fifth Avenue at 92nd Street. For information, 212-423-3200 or www.thejewishmuseum.org.

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