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Situla  

Pippin Michelli

Bucket-shaped vessel, often used in a Christian context to contain holy water. Late Antique examples include two fine glass situlae in the treasury of S Marco, Venice: one, probably dating from the 4th century ad and made in Rome or Alexandria of purple glass, bears deeply carved Dionysiac figures; the other, perhaps of 6th- or 7th-century date, is decorated with hunting scenes. The most elaborate surviving situlae, however, are Ottonian. Made from a single piece of ivory and lavishly carved, these four examples range in height from 145 mm to 185 mm (Milan, Tesoro Duomo; Aachen, Domschatzkam.; London, V&A; New York, Cloisters). They are difficult to date precisely on grounds of style, inscription, or iconography, although they can be associated with Ottonian imperial circles.

The Milan Situla (showing the Virgin and Child and the Evangelists under an arcade) may be the earliest of the four. Its style and detail are closely comparable with a plaque (Milan, Castello Sforzesco) and the two are probably contemporary. The plaque shows Otto II, Theophano, and their infant son adoring Christ. Its inscription, ...