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Department of Culture and Tourism - Abu Dhabi/ Photo: Thierry Ollivier

Sculpted Basin with the Name of Bonifilius

ca. 1300


The function of this large sculpted basin is clearly indicated by the Latin inscription loutron on the upper edge. This term, which can mean a fountain or phiale (a bowl used in rituals) is derived from the Greek loutron, which indicates the basin used for cleansing in the entrance courtyard of an Orthodox monastery. The basin provides valuable evidence of the role played by Venice in the meeting of forms and materials between the East and West at the turn of the 13th century. The marble from which it was sculpted was probably imported from Constantinople by colonists or crusaders. Carved by Bonifilius, an artist of Italian origin, who engraved his name on the rim, the basin is decorated with an animal frieze that recalls ancient works while also illustrating the passion of Western Romanesque art for zoomorphic iconography and confirming its purificatory liturgical function and Byzantine inspiration. Like the ancient basin reused as a baptismal font at the entrance to the Hagia Sophia in Constantinople, it is decorated with dragons, which alternate here in pairs with lions, and a rare image of a porcupine. Inside the basin, as though at the bottom of the water, there is also a salamander, a symbol of purification. Used for ablutions, the basin was probably placed at the entrance to a religious building in northern Italy during the 13th century.

Artwork Details

Artist: Bonifilius
Title: Sculpted Basin with the Name of Bonifilius
Geography: Northern Italy
Date: ca. 1300

Medium: marble

Classification: religious item
Dimensions: 101 x 166 cm
Inventory number: LAD 2011.030
Contact for images : [email protected]
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