Pilgrim Flask With Scenes Of St. Menas
© President and Fellows of Harvard College
Identification and Creation
Object Number
2012.1.113
Title
Pilgrim Flask with Scenes of St. Menas
Classification
Vessels
Work Type
vessel
Date
4th-7th century
Period
Byzantine period, Early
Culture
Byzantine
Physical Descriptions
Medium
Terracotta
Technique
Molded
Dimensions
9.4 x 6.9 x 2.3 cm (3 11/16 x 2 11/16 x 7/8 in.)
Provenance
[C. Dikran Kelekian, Ancient Arts, New York, 1983] sold; to The Alice Corinne McDaniel Collection, Department of the Classics, Harvard University (1983-2012), transfer; to the Harvard Art Museums, 2012.
Aquisition and Rights
Credit Line
Harvard Art Museums/Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Transfer from the Alice Corinne McDaniel Collection, Department of the Classics, Harvard University
Accession Year
2012
Object Number
2012.1.113
Division
Asian and Mediterranean Art
Contact
am_asianmediterranean@harvard.edu
Descriptions
Description
Both sides of this terracotta ampulla (pilgrim flask) are decorated with the same scene in relief: Saint Menas in prayer, flanked by two kneeling camels within a circular border of dots or studs. The saint stands frontally, arms held open; the long folds of his cloak are visible as vertical lines on either side of his body; there may be crosses depicted in the space on either side of his head. The body of the flask was created with a two-piece mold; the handles were made separately and attached before firing. The relief is worn and difficult to read; there is some discoloration on the vessel, particularly on the raised details.
Commentary
Flasks bearing images of Saint Menas are not uncommon in Egypt. Menas was a Roman soldier who was martyred; veneration of him as a saint centered on an oasis near Alexandria. On better-preserved ampullae bearing the same scene, the details of Menas' clothing (tunic, boots, and cloak, perhaps in the style of the later Roman military) are much clearer; the border type varies between the dot/stud motif and chevrons. Some examples bear inscriptions or depictions of crosses above the saint's arms.
Related Works
Verification Level

3 - Good. Object is well described and information is vetted