Gemellion with Peacocks

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Gemellion with Peacocks

Gemellion, Artist unknown, Limoges, France, 13th century

Champlevé Enamel on Copper, 8 7/8” diameter

Collection of The Walters’ Art Museum, Bequest by Henry Walters, 1931

 

Research by Kate Werwie

NAME:

The name gemellion comes from the Latin “geminus”, or twin and refers to a matched pair of basins from medieval France: a spouted, pouring bowl and a collecting basin (“Gemellion”).

FUNCTION:

Gemellions were used both ritually, during the Christian mass, and practically, before and after meals, in medieval France to wash the hands. Warm, spiced water was poured from the spouted gemellion into its matching basin (Robinson).

TECHNIQUE:

This gemellion features the champlevé technique, commonly used by the Medieval artisans of Limoges, which involves hollowing the background material (here copper) and applying enamel in the negative space (Ross 9).

MEANING:


The peacock, the flesh of which St. Augustine believed to be incorruptible,   was a Christian motif that represented beauty, paradise and immortality to the medieval viewer (“Gemellion” and “Christian Symbols”).

IN HISTORY:

The basin is reputed to have been found in the Seine, which led to the extensive corrosion of the copper and enamel. (“Gemellion”).

LEARN MORE:

"Christian Symbols," Fish Eaters: The Whys and Hows of Traditional Catholicism. Web. 29 Aug. 2011. <http://www.fisheaters.com/symbols.html>.
 
"Gemellion with Peacocks." The Walter's Art Museum. 2010. Web. 29 Aug. 2011.
 
Robinson, J. "A Gemellion." The British Museum. Web. 29 Aug. 2011.
 
Ross, Marvin Chauncey. "An Enamelled Gemellion of Limoges." Bulletin of the Fogg Art Museum 2.1 (1932): 9-13. Print.

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