Name of Object:

Aquamanile in the form of a ram


Bardo, Tunisia

Holding Museum:

Bardo Museum

Date of Object:

Hegira 4th–early 5th centuries / AD 10th–11th centuries

Museum Inventory Number:


Material(s) / Technique(s):



Height 32.5 cm

Period / Dynasty:





This standing animal sculpture has lost its front paws, ears and horns. With its long neck and head too small for its body, it exudes a feeling of great strength. On its breast is a crescent which seems to have a medicinal significance. Around its neck it wears a collar, decorated with an incised saw-tooth pattern, from which the crescent hangs. The eyes are circles sculpted around globular protrusions for the iris. This aquamanile was probably a fountain-head embellishing one of the local palaces or large houses. The water ran up a tube from under the ram's belly and emerged from the open spout of its mouth.
This example can be included within a whole series of animal-shaped aquamaniles discovered in various Muslim countries, especially Egypt and Spain. They were generally deer, dogs or birds.

View Short Description

Aquamaniles were probably used as fountain heads to decorate palaces and grand residences. This example belongs to a series of aquamaniles in the shape of animals, usually stags, dogs or birds, found in some Muslim countries including Egypt and Spain.

How date and origin were established:

This aquamanile has definite affinities to other pieces found at Madinat al-Zahra, dating from the mid-4th / 10th century, and in Egypt, dating from the 5th century (11th). From the Ifriqiyan historical context and the simple decoration the piece can be dated to somewhere between the 4th–early 5th / 10th–11th centuries.

How Object was obtained:

This piece was presented to the Museum by the Friends of the Bardo in May 1941, where it has been on display since.

How provenance was established:

This piece was a fortuitous discovery made at Beni Khalad probably during the 1930s. In spite of its resemblance to the aquamaniles of al-Andalus, its Ifriqiyan origin appears beyond doubt.

Selected bibliography:

Tunisie, terre de rencontres et de civilisation (Seville exhibition catalogue), Tunis, 1992, p.271.
Zbiss, S. M., Actes du congres national des societes savantes, Alger, 1954, p.303.

Citation of this web page:

Mourad Rammah "Aquamanile in the form of a ram" in Discover Islamic Art, Museum With No Frontiers, 2024.;ISL;tn;Mus01_A;17;en

Prepared by: Mourad RammahMourad Rammah

Né en 1953 à Kairouan, docteur en archéologie islamique, Mourad Rammah est le conservateur de la médina de Kairouan. Lauréat du prix Agha Khan d'architecture, il publie divers articles sur l'histoire de l'archéologie médiévale islamique en Tunisie et participe à différentes expositions sur l'architecture islamique. De 1982 à 1994, il est en charge du département de muséographie du Centre des arts et des civilisations islamiques. Mourad Rammah est également directeur du Centre des manuscrits de Kairouan.

Copyedited by: Margot Cortez
Translation by: David Ash
Translation copyedited by: Mandi GomezMandi Gomez

Amanda Gomez is a freelance copy-editor and proofreader working in London. She studied Art History and Literature at Essex University (1986–89) and received her MA (Area Studies Africa: Art, Literature, African Thought) from SOAS in 1990. She worked as an editorial assistant for the independent publisher Bellew Publishing (1991–94) and studied at Bookhouse and the London College of Printing on day release. She was publications officer at the Museum of London until 2000 and then took a role at Art Books International, where she worked on projects for independent publishers and arts institutions that included MWNF’s English-language editions of the books series Islamic Art in the Mediterranean. She was part of the editorial team for further MWNF iterations: Discover Islamic Art in the Mediterranean Virtual Museum and the illustrated volume Discover Islamic Art in the Mediterranean.

True to its ethos of connecting people through the arts, MWNF has provided Amanda with valuable opportunities for discovery and learning, increased her editorial experience, and connected her with publishers and institutions all over the world. More recently, the projects she has worked on include MWNF’s Sharing History Virtual Museum and Exhibition series, Vitra Design Museum’s Victor Papanek and Objects of Desire, and Haus der Kulturen der Welt’s online publication 2 or 3 Tigers and its volume Race, Nation, Class.

MWNF Working Number: TN 25


Related monuments

 Artistic Introduction

 Timeline for this item

Islamic Dynasties / Period



On display in

Discover Islamic Art Exhibition(s)

Water | Water and Everyday Life


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