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Long-Spouted Brass Temple Oil Ewer

South India or Sri Lanka
18th century

height: 29cm, weight: 1,118g



UK art market

This sculptural, elegant ewer has a particularly pleasing shape on account of its long spout which rises like a beak from a bird.

It sits on a low, flared foot; has a slightly flattened, spherical body; and an ear-shaped handle.

The top of the body has been cast with various concentric tiers.

The other striking aspect of this ewer is its patina: it has a deep-chocolate brown hue – its significant age is obvious.

Such ewers were used in temples in South India and Sri Lanka for filling the wells of small lamps with oil, the elongated, pointed spout being ideal for this task.

The spout screws into the body and can be removed to allow the ewer to be filled with oil. When the spout is fully screwed in, it points slightly to one side. This seems deliberate and would aid with the flow and precision in pouring.

A related ewer was offered at Sotheby’s London, ‘Arts of the Islamic World’, October 14, 1999, lot no.: 175.


Coomaraswamy, A.K., Mediaeval Sinhalese Art, Pantheon Books, 1956 reprint of the 1908 edition.

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