Monday, August 17, 2009
Aquamanile: Phyllis Riding Aristotle
This aquamanile (a vessel used for ritual hand-washing) is in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. Dating from the southern Netherlands or eastern France, circa 1400, it depicts Aristotle allowing himself to be humiliated by Phyllis, supposedly a favourite courtesan of his student, Alexander. According to a popular morality tale from the later Middle Ages, Aristotle was teaching Alexander a lesson about the dangers of feminine wiles. I love the exquisite weirdness of this piece, and its irony. I would call it "The Misogynist Gets His Due".