Censer with Nilotic Scenes

Unknown3th/4th c.

Bode-Museum, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin

Bode-Museum, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin

The body of the shallow, bulging bowl shows relief scenes typical of so-called Nilotic landscapes, referring to the River Nile in Egypt: Children or Erotes are fishing; a fish trap is let out from a boat; a boy is riding a dolphin. Diverse river and sea creatures teem between them: mussels, fish, a crab, a squid, a snake. Chains attached to the eyelets on the upper rim originally served to swing the censer and spread the pleasant aroma of the burning substances within. The object was probably used in a cultic context. The pagan images with their allusions to Egypt recall the Egyptian divinities, among whom Isis in particular enjoyed a wide following within the Roman Empire. The piece could, but does not necessarily, originate from Egypt itself, despite its theme. The suggestion of a date in the third to fourth centuries is based on the loose organization of the figures and the purely pagan representation.

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