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Bowl of a Drinking Cup

late 12th century

British or Scandinavian

This bowl, with its animated nude male figures and dragons woven into the foliage, was most likely part of a secular drinking bowl rather than a ciborium (the vessel in which the Sanctuary is kept) or a chalice for use during Mass, as previously thought. Between the main compartments, inhabited by nude figures and dragons, are smaller areas with basilisks. The heads of men and beasts are in high relief, and the bands between the compartments and the palmette frieze beneath the rim are very clearly drawn. The decor of the bowl has parallels in twelfth-century English art, but similar pieces have also been found in Sweden. This specimen was found near the Ob River in Siberia, which demonstrates how objects in the Middle Ages sometimes circulated far from where they were made.