Aquamanile in the Form of a Crowned Centaur Fighting a Dragon, 1200–1225
German (Lower Saxony)
Copper alloy. The Metropolitan Museum of Art
The crowned centaur (undoubtedly Chiron, the king of centaurs) appears about to slay the dragon attacking his left side with the sword wielded in his right hand. Already representing a fantastic, composite beast, the form of this aquamanile is further enriched by the dragon whose head and neck, grasped in the centaur's left hand, form the spout. A second dragon forms the handle on the centaur's back. The vessel was filled through a hole in the top of the centaur's head. The centaur is a familiar figure in medieval imagery, appearing most often as the archer, Sagittarius, in representations of the zodiac. A few other surviving aquamanilia are in the form of centaurs, but none of these represent the battle with the dragon. Stylistically, this aquamanile belongs to a group of works in copper alloy that can be compared to a baptismal font cast in Hildesheim (Lower Saxony) about 1225.