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Identification and Creation

Object Number
Basin Handle with a Projecting Knob in Center
Work Type
late 6th century BCE
Creation Place: Ancient & Byzantine World, Europe
Archaic period
Persistent Link

Physical Descriptions

Leaded bronze
Cast, lost-wax process
6.7 x 17 x 7.3 cm (2 5/8 x 6 11/16 x 2 7/8 in.)
Technical Details

Chemical Composition: ICP-MS/AAA data from sample, Leaded Bronze:
Cu, 82.31; Sn, 12.03; Pb, 5.3; Zn, 0.005; Fe, 0.29; Ni, 0.02; Ag, 0.05; Sb, less than 0.02; As, less than 0.10; Bi, less than 0.025; Co, less than 0.005; Au, less than 0.01; Cd, less than 0.001

J. Riederer

Technical Observations: The patina is a very dark green and black with areas of raised lighter green corrosion products. Half of the handle is covered with coarse, raised corrosion products and black burial accretions. The other half appears to have been cleaned carefully revealing a surface that is well preserved in areas. An 8-cm section of the central knob and a 1.5-cm section of one side knob have been lost and are filled with wax.

Irregularities in the shapes of the object give the impression that the wax model from which it was cast was probably made directly rather than cast in a mold. There are striations in the four deep grooves where the handle attached to the rim of the vessel, indicating that they were dressed abrasively after casting in order to receive the rim. The slender upper walls of the grooves would have allowed them to be bent tightly around the rim in order to hold the handle in place. There are no visible signs of a solder.

Henry Lie (submitted 2012)


Recorded Ownership History
Dr. Harris Kennedy, Milton, MA (by 1932), gift; to the William Hayes Fogg Art Museum, 1932.

Acquisition and Rights

Credit Line
Harvard Art Museums/Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Gift of Dr. Harris Kennedy, Class of 1894
Accession Year
Object Number
Asian and Mediterranean Art

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Published Catalogue Text: Ancient Mediterranean and Near Eastern Bronzes at the Harvard Art Museums
Originally one of a pair of solid-cast handles situated opposite each other and attached to the rim of a shallow basin or bowl, this handle is square in section and rises to a central knob, which has an expanded circular head in the middle. Either end of the handle curves downward and then rises again, terminating in a knob similar to the central one. The inner sides of the handle and the front edges of the terminal knobs have slots aligned to fit snugly over the rim of the bowl or basin to which it was attached.

This piece resembles handles with central vertical knobs that appear on Athenian black-figure cups of the “Merrythought” variety, dated to c. 560 BCE. These cups clearly reflect models in silver or bronze. The other examples of this type of handle end in snake or lion heads, suggested by the sinuous form of the handle and the slots in the terminal knobs (1). Based on these parallels, a probable date for this handle would be around 525 to 500 BCE. While a mainland workshop may be involved, this piece could perfectly well also have fitted a bowl or basin made in one of the Greek cities in southern Italy or Sicily.


1. Compare 2005.104, which is published in Kunstwerke der Antike: Auktion 22, Münzen und Medaillen (Basel), May 13, 1961, lot 53; and A. S. Walker, ed., Animals in Ancient Art from the Leo Mildenberg Collection, Part III (Mainz, 1996) 104-105, no. 156. For further comparison, see also W. Gauer, Die Bronzegefässe von Olympia: Mit Ausnahme der geometrischen Dreifüsse und der Kessel des orientalisierenden Stils, Olympische Forschungen 20 (Berlin, 1991) 239-42, P24, P32, P38, and P40; nos. 3-6; pl. 57.

David G. Mitten

Subjects and Contexts

  • Ancient Bronzes

Related Works

Verification Level

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