Vessel decorated in repoussé
Period: European, late Bronze Age - early Iron Age (circa 10th - 9th century B.C.)
Dimensions: Height: 36.3 cm
Ex-English private collection, collected in the 1980s
The vessel is almost complete and in excellent condition, aside from superfi cial
cracks and restorations visible in the upper part especially. The smooth surface is covered with a beautiful light green patina, of uniform appearance outside and inside. The circumference of the lip is slightly deformed.
This vessel is outstanding for several reasons. Due to its remarkable state of preservation, size and accurate decoration showing the great skill of the craftsman, this piece is one of the most beautiful objects coming from central European cultures. The general appearance of the vase is linear and elegant, with a high conical body, a short barely marked shoulder, a small neck turned outwards, and a rounded rim. Four lead rings with two-pointed pendants are suspended from each handle.
Made of very thin bronze sheets modeled in the cold hammering technique, it is composed of several parts, which were made separately and then assembled: the handles, the two large plaques for the body, one single element for the bottom and the reinforcement for the cross-shaped base. The rim is hammered around a ring whose section is circular. The main plaques have stacked edges and are fixed by rivets hammered from the outside. The heads of the rivets are flat and perfectly leveled with the surface of the vase; on the inside, the nails are in relief. The bottom is also made of a single element, soldered to the body with a series of rivets. The handles are attached symmetrically to the upper body with six nails, exactly between the two main plaques.
The decoration is concentrated in the upper part: it is entirely composed of dots and bumps of various sizes, made from the interior of the vessel in the repoussé technique (the PunktBuckel-System in German, a system of dots and bumps). Both sides of the container are decorated with the same scheme. On the shoulder, series of alternated small and large dots; just below, in the handles area, is the main pattern consisting in a continuous frieze of concentric circles with a bump in the center and of stylized, waterbirds protomes that face each other (Hallstatt-Vogelprotome).
The presence of the series of rivets, worked in a beautiful, accurate way, are very common on contemporary bronze vessels and would have had an ornamental purpose: their regular and symmetrical shape recall the linear outline of the vessel.
Most of the related vases were found in necropolis; the fact that, since the late Bronze Age already, some of the wealthiest tombs would have contained various forms of bronze vessels (buckets, cups, sieves to strain the spices that flavored the wine, etc.) would suggest that they were first used as tableware, especially during banquets and funerary rituals. Other similar buckets served as funerary urns, in which the ashes of the deceased were deposited.
Concerning the decoration, it is worth noting that the pattern corresponds to the theme of the solar boat: the dotted circles with the central bump represent the sun on a schematized boat, decorated on the bow and stern with protomes of waterbirds. Archaeologists generally think that the ancient inhabitants of Europe attributed a religious meaning to these elements, linked to the solar cult and to the path of the sun in the sky vault; a chariot of fire or a boat were dedicated to its transport.
This theme is largely widespread in European art at that time and can be found without any variant from north to south (Scandinavia-Italy) and from east to west (Bohemia-Iberia). There are several buckets belonging to this class of vessels, adorned with the same pattern. The presence of bronze or lead pendants suspended from the handles is also documented on related vessels.
Typologically, this shape belongs to a class of objects that are well attested in the urnfield the Hallstatt cultures, the buckets of the Hajdúböszörmény type (named after a site in Hungary), characterized by linear contours, a body composed of two main plaques and small horizontal handles. In terms of absolute chronology, these vessels belong to the turn of the 2nd and 1st millennium B.C.
On European Prehistoric cultures, see:
KRUTA V., L’Europe des origines, Paris, 1992.
On European bronze vessels, see:
JACOB C., Metallgefässe des Bronze- und Halstattzeit in Nordwest-, West und Süddeutschland (PBF II/9), Munich, 1995, pp. 103-104.
KYTLICOVA O., Die Bronzegefässe in Böhmen, Munich, 1991 (PBF II/12-13).
NOVOTNA M., Die Bronzegefässe in der Slowakei (PBF II/11), Munich, 1991, p. 58 ff.
PATAY P., Die Bronzegefässe in Ungarn (PBF II/10), Munich, 1990, p. 40 ff.
PRÜSSING G., Die Bronzegefässe in Österreich (PBF II/5), Munich, 1991, p. 52 ff.