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I'd posted several photos of this bronze ewer I own over a year ago and hadn't received any comments or information about its' source or history. I recently reposted this information on my Google+ page and thought that I'd repost it here. I had spent time searching the Internet and found only a few ancient bronze type ewers which had bird or duck heads and none that even closely resembled this one. I never discovered where this was made or by whom but the engraved marks on the bottom might disclose some information to someone about the source of this strange item.
Description: A 7 1/2 inch high heavy bronze ewer or aquamanile (ritual vessel for pouring watr) with an animal head bearing a four sided crown; decorated with geometric patterns, the handle depicts a snake. It has three engraved wild animal scenes around the middle showing a lion and its' prey, the base is engraved with initials H.K. and N.17 or N.15. Liquid can be poured into the crown and poured out thru the animal's mouth. This has welding or soldering vertically thru the middle section. Various museums and art specialists have been unable to provide any information about where or when this was made.
I purchased this in a thrift store in Virginia back in 2009 and when I first saw it I was immediately attracted to it as I love weird objects. I spent quite a bit of time looking at various collectible ewers and aquamaniles on the Internet and could not find one that was similar in appearance. The type of wild animals depicted around the middle lead me to believe that this might have been made in Africa. It is unlike the many other examples of Persian or Middle Eastern bird head ewers.
I posted a video on youTube showing more views of this strange ewer:
Thank you for looking at my strange bird; I tonight had been looking thru many images of ancient Cocatrix and one item that they almost all have is a pointed beak. Even though there are variations in the shapes of their heads their beaks are very much the same. This brass animal has a rounded mouth and I'm not certain but it appears to have teeth. I'll give up trying to identify its' origin and enjoy the fact that it was waiting for me in what used to be my favorite thrift store in Northern Virginia. I longer work near that store and might never go back there; I enjoyed the several people who had worked there as much as I did shopping in that store.
Mark, one thing I found while researching is that ALL the similar ewers from China have dragon-shaped handles, whereas yours is a serpent.
In looking at the undecorated face of the duck I can see that the brass/bronze was molded, not spun. This indicates it may have been made before the 1880s.
Really you think cast brass isn't made after 1880? Not true.
It seems strange to me how much this little weird sculpture means to me; I can easily understand and appreciate how much time, effort and skill was invested by the person who made this. After spending so much time trying research this little "wunderkind" I finally decided that it was a "one of a kind" undertaking by someone who at least had some skill at metalwork and who also had something to share. If we work only on those two principles it'a apparent that he (most likely a man due our world's prejudices) had a mission fulfill and he chose to and was able to use his several skills to fashion this sculpture. It has detail, it shows visual patterns and art drawings and has a geometric underlying design. It's not just a child's lump of clay hand molded and made to look like an animal. The person who made this likely worked in a village where these skills were used to make other items such as knives, possibly shields or other necessary metal tools. What's interesting to me is the several geometric patterns which are a major departure from the wild animal scenes shown above. This obviously was made in Africa based on the several lions and gazelle shown in the one scene. The snake handle to me indicates that the maker had some background in understanding mysticism as it might have disseminated in his culture. And he did provide several clues on the rim of the base by leaving letters and a number so that people who might want to understand this work would have a trail to follow. My mistake might have been in believing that he wanted people to learn who he was; instead he might have been a type of Rosicrucian who was simply playing a good joke on trained researchers and he probably carried the secrets of this sculpture to his grave. Good work Mr. "X."
I strongly suspect that this brass sculpture was donated to the thrift store by the family of an elderly man who'd owned this for years and had recently passed away. Unfortunately it was made of brass rather than gold. I believe that this prior owner had possibly purchased it from a person who knew the details about its' origin and had mentioned these details to the man who had purchased this. That purchaser if he was thinking ahead could have attached a small note to this sculpture letting people know where it came from and what it represented. Or, perhaps this prior owner had been doing what I've been doing and that's trying to determine "what the he-- is this" for the past 20 years and he finally gave up. I learned how to research my many antique finds and I don't consider myself an "expert" but I factually learned a lot about most all of the thrift store treasures which I'd been purchasing from many local stores. I conducted my online research mainly for my own benefit and my own interest and not strictly to try to increase the value of my collectibles because I as a rule don't sell most of my finds. In retrospect I should have opened a museum but that's not in my plans.