Censer

The body of this cylindrical censer is decorated with eight columns spaced at regular intervals. The lid of the censer consists of an openwork dome divided into sections by eight vertical ribs that converge at its apex. An arched horizontal band intersects the midpoint of the ribs, and these eight junctures are marked with a projecting bird that holds a small bronze ball dangling from its beak. Two segments of the dome are decorated with Maltese crosses while another two feature curved plant forms. The apex is surmounted by a finial comprised of a globe topped by a Maltese cross on which a bird holding a piece of fruit perches.
Artist Unknown, Coptic, Egypt
500-699
During liturgical rituals this Coptic censer would have been swung on a chain attached to its lid in order to scent the church with incense. The incense, usually spices or wood gums, would have been sprinkled over a bed of smoldering coals in the body of the censer, and the sweet fragrance of the burning incense would have exited through the perforated lid. The columns encircling the body of the censer, the domed lid, and the finial give the censer the appearance of a domed church, which would have visually harmonized the censer with its setting.
Museum Purchase
1960/2.4
Monday, November 12, 2018