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Spoon with Saint Paul as an Athlete

Spoon with Saint Paul as an Athlete

350-400

Silver, silver gilt, and niello

Overall: 4.6 x 5.6 cm (1 13/16 x 2 3/16 in.)

John L. Severance Fund 1964.39

Description

Silver spoons with swan neck handles (ligulae) were popular in the Late Roman Empire. This late antique spoon is unique because it is decorated with the nude figure of a victorious athlete identified in an inscription as PAVLVS (Paul). It is tempting to interpret the juxtaposition of the name with a classical representation of an athlete as a subtle allusion to a passage in Saint Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians (1 Cor. 9:24-27), in which the apostle characterizes himself as an "athlete of Christ." While this interpretation may imply that the spoon’s owner was a Christian, it does not imply a religious function for the object, which was likely used for display or fine dining.

See also
Collection: 
MED - Byzantine
Department: 
Medieval Art
Type of artwork: 
Metalwork

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