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A matching jug and bowl used for hand washing during and after meals and for toilet purposes. They were made in precious and base metals, ceramics, glass and enamel. Early medieval ewers are usually in the form of animals or figures (see Aquamanile). In the Middle Ages their use was ceremonial as well as practical. From the 15th century ewers and basins were acquired by institutions and corporations for ceremonial presentation and as ambassadorial gifts, becoming prized display objects. In form and decoration the ewer and basin altered with stylistic developments, and they were always of the most elaborate design and finish. With the increased use of cutlery from the late 17th century, ewers and basins had less function, although mainly ceramic examples were used as an accoutrement for toilet use until the advent of widespread domestic plumbing in the early 20th century.

E. M. Alcorn: ‘Some of the Kings of England Curiously Engraven: An Elizabethan Ewer and Basin in the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston’, ...