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.
Acquisition 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

This record has been reviewed by the curatorial staff but may be incomplete. Our records are frequently revised and enhanced. For more information please contact the Division of Asian and Mediterranean Art at am_asianmediterranean@harvard.edu