238. Bronze Aeolipile

Germany, 16th century
Size: 18.5 cm high

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Exhibited and published: An Exhibition of Medieval, Renaissance and Islamic Works of Art, Trinity Fine Art, New York, 1995, no. 26 in the catalogue

Aeolipiles (a useful word for a scrabble player) or ‘fire-blowers’ are described by Antonio di Pietro Averlino, called Filarete (c. 1400–1465), as equipment for fireplaces. Derived from Antique prototypes, they would be filled with water and placed next to a fire. As the water reached boiling-point, a jet of steam would burst from the mouth into the fire, making it burn brightly. It looks as if this one has swallowed a large quantity of raw pasta and then, unwisely, drunk a jug of water.

Provenance: Oettingen-Wallerstein Collections, Schloss Harburg, Harburg
Trinity Fine Art, New York, 1995
Luigi Koelliker, Milan
John Winter Collection, London