4933

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Ethiopian Orthodox Christian Engraved Silver Flask

Ethiopia
probably 19th century

height: 16cm, weight: 422g

Sold

Provenance

private collection, London

This unusual, heavy flask made of high-grade solid silver would have been commissioned in Ethiopia for an Orthodox church and would have held sacred oil or some other ritual liquid. It is of bulbous form, with a flattened underside, a tall thin, cylindrical neck, and a stopper attached to the rim of the neck by a heavy silver chain. The stopper is surmounted by a cross. In Ethiopia, the various churches had different types of crosses (yangat masqal)which served as something of an identifier for the church and the region. Testament to this is the wide variety of silver and other metal crosses that devotees were able to acquire to wear from their necks.

The flask is engraved angel-type figures amid geometric scrolls and scrolling foliage.

A band around the middle of the body has been engraved with Ethiopian Ge’ez script. We believe that this script identifies the church for which the flask was made.

The underside is engraved with a solar motif and has a cartouche presenting more Ge’ez script.

The flask is in excellent condition.

References

Biasio, E., Majesty and Magnificence at the Court of Menelik: Alfred Ilg’s Ethiopia around 1900, Verlag Nueue Zurcher Zeitung, 2004.

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