Aquamanile Inv. Cl.990 Musée de Cluny-Musée national du Moyen Âge, Paris FCC Sarah Vez
Aquamanile côté Inv. Cl.990 Musée de Cluny-Musée national du Moyen Âge, Paris FCC Sarah Vez
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Item of the month October

Aquamanile : bust of a young man.
This standing recipient has a handle and spout for pouring water or a scented liquid onto guests' hands to clean them at the beginning and end of a banquet. While most aquamaniles were in the shape of an animal, this example depicts the bust of a young, well-dressed man.

Hand washing has been a part of table manners and hygiene, especially since the 13th century. It is done at the beginning and end of meals, and at any time when necessary. In addition to towels, the long tablecloth is sometimes used as hand towels.
Le Mesnagier de Paris, a manuscript of domestic and culinary economy written at the end of the 14th century proposes a recipe for washing water: to make water to wash hands on the table, boil sage then run the water and cool until cooler. Either you put as top marjoram chamomile or you put rosemary and cook with orange peel. And also bay leaves are good there.
These are herbal infusions with medicinal and disinfectant properties, sometimes mixed with rose water.
Aquamaniles, ceramic, alloy or precious metal vessels, often in the shape of a character or an animal, especially a lion, are used for washing hands before meals or before mass. This one is in a gothic style and probably comes from North Germany, perhaps from Hildesheim Abbey.

This aquamanile, generously lent by the Musée de Cluny-Musée national du Moyen Âge, is on display at the Château de Chillon™ from 14 September 2018 to 28 April 2019 as part of the temporary exhibition "Mouthwatering– Drinking and eating in the Middle Ages".

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