Perfectly preserved ampulla of Saint Menas

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Object number
AR2435B
Ampulla of Saint Menas, a late-third-century Egyptian Roman soldier who was martyred for his Christian faith. From the collection of Prof. Dilling, acquired in the early 1900s.
Object: Ampulla (flask)

Material: Red clay

Period: Late 5th century–mid 7th century A.D.
Abu Mena, Egypt

Description:    Flat bottle with circular body, high neck and two handles which were used by the pilgrims as loops for a string, to suspend the flask around one's neck.
One side shows Saint Menas flanked by camels, his arms outstretched in blessing. Above each arm is a quincunx, representing a cross; all within a beaded circular border. On the opposite side a male head in profile within beaded borders.

Dimensions: Height 106 mm, width 66 mm

Condition: Stable crack at one of the handles, minor wear, otherwise perfectly preserved. Very nice piece in an extraordinary condition, especially for these flasks which were manufactured in mass production.

Reference: For the diverse variants of these very popular flask,, see e.g. D.M. Bailey, Catalogue of Terracottas in the British Museum IV: Ptolemaic and Roman Terracottas from Egypt (British Museum, 2008), pp. 115-124, Pl. 74-88

Provenance: Acquired 2018 in a US auction house. Ex private collection Stanley Lowell, in this from private collection Walter J. Dilling, acquired in the early 1900s.
Walter J. Dilling was a pharmacologist and professor at the University of Liverpool. His work and passion for collecting antiquities are reflected in a curious way in a hand written note accompanying and describing this flask and stating Alexandria as the place where it was found or acquired. For this note, the professor used a package insert for "Milk of Magnesia 'brand Tablets", as can be read on the reverse side of the small paper sheet.

Authenticity: We unconditionally guarantee the authenticity of every artefact, all items are subject to our lifetime return policy on authenticity.