does anyone know what this item is?

stacisantiquesJuly 21, 2009

This is really neat but I don't have a clue what it is or its purpose. Thought I would see if anyone could tell me? Click on the link that might be useful to see a picture.

thanks for any help you can provide folks....

Here is a link that might be useful:

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A planter?

    Bookmark   July 21, 2009 at 2:14PM
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It is not deep enough for a planter. The pot is only about 4-5" deep. Thanks though

    Bookmark   July 21, 2009 at 4:44PM
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Holy water font.
Linda C

    Bookmark   July 21, 2009 at 5:21PM
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I don't know - looks a little low for a holy water font; particularly a portable font. And without ecclesiastical decoration...

Fonts were generally fixed and made of stone, but during the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, movable fonts started to appear and generally consisted of a tub placed upon an elevated socle (a short plinth used to support a pedestal or sculpture) the usual height being about forty inches.

But, I'm shooting in the dark here.

    Bookmark   July 21, 2009 at 5:53PM
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I've never seen anything like it.

It looks like a brass bowl sitting atop a wood pedestal, but the inside of the bowl, is it copper? It looks like something wet was supposed to sit in it/on it. Dimensions would help, but it looks about 18" high? Higher? Do you think the brass is original to the wood pedestal?

I've seen waterproof inserts inlaid or atop plant stands. It's certainly not a typical fern stand, but is the bottom of the bowl flat (can't see in the pic) so that it could accommodate a flower pot?

    Bookmark   July 21, 2009 at 6:50PM
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Here is a link that might be useful: another view

    Bookmark   July 21, 2009 at 7:09PM
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OK. Here is the inside of the bowl. Yes, it is hammered copper on bottom and brass on top and handles. It just sits in the stand. It is not deep enough to be a planter, so lets keep trying to figure this one out.
thanks again.

Here is a link that might be useful:

    Bookmark   July 21, 2009 at 7:30PM
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I didn't say it was a planter. I suggested it might be a plant stand. There is a difference. Plant stands were wildly popular in the Victorian era. You put your already potted plant on/into one, you don't plant it in the stand. I still don't know what it is, but the fact it's only four inches deep doesn't rule out a plant stand. I've seen the same thing in wrought iron for outside use, but never in wood.

    Bookmark   July 21, 2009 at 8:22PM
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The inside is not "flat" but that correct?
Also plants don't do well in copper, over time the copper leaches out salts that make the plant very sick!
I still think it's a baptismal or holy water font. Sits on a table or a side altar. It has obviously had water in it by the corrosion.
Where did you get it?
Linda C

    Bookmark   July 21, 2009 at 8:48PM
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It looks like an old version of a chafing dish. Maybe inside the copper insert, sat a glass insert that food could be put into, and may have had a copper lid to keep the food warm or cold.

    Bookmark   July 21, 2009 at 11:08PM
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I know about copper and plants, but have seen a lot of copper planters in my business so somebody who designed them didn't know. I have some of them up in my greenhouses in fact. Agree if the copper thing is bowled it doesn't make sense either to hold a flower pot, unless it was one of the pottery bowl type urns. Seen a lot of those too from the old art potteries.

Could be a holy water font, but I'm catholic and never saw anything like this either in this country or elsewhere. Could be a chafing dish, but is the wooden top entire underneath, or open so that the brass or copper dish shows? Does it lift out?

Whatever it is, it's obviously meant to be decorative, it's obviously meant to hold fluid or something wet. And it looks heavy enough that it isn't something portable you'd want to haul out for a meal.

    Bookmark   July 22, 2009 at 12:16AM
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1. Fondu pot? An alcohol lamp would be placed under the bowl to keep the cheese melted.

2. A pot for melting wax for dipping wicks and building up a candle?

3. An old time fat lamp. Fat and or wax was held in the bowl and a wick sticking up could be lighted?

4. Does the top part lift out and can the bottom part hold water? If so, it could be a steamer.

    Bookmark   July 22, 2009 at 1:22AM
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The pot does lift out. It is rounded on edges, but flat hammered on bottom and does show from underneath. It just sits in the stand. You just lift it out of the stand by the handles on the pot. I see no evidence of a lid sitting on it, but I guess at some time there could have been one. Ive personally never seen a wooden stand like this for a chaffing dish, only metal, but hey, who knows. Ive tried looking up old/antique holy water fonts with no success in anything that looked like this, but it could be. Maybe someone else who reads this will know right off the bat and I will have to applaud them because I would never figure it out on my own.

Here is a link that might be useful:

    Bookmark   July 22, 2009 at 10:47AM
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I still say it's a baptismal font.
Linda c

Here is a link that might be useful: baptismal fonts

    Bookmark   July 22, 2009 at 1:18PM
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It's a brazier. You burn coals or charcoal or incense in it. Linked to a Japanese one.

Here is a link that might be useful: Hall of Great Buddha

    Bookmark   July 22, 2009 at 1:52PM
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If it was a brazier, wouldn't it be cast metal? Seems like sheet copper would burn through too easily & a wooden base wouldn't be ideal.

How about something that holds a large floral arrangement, as opposed to a potted plant?

    Bookmark   July 22, 2009 at 2:36PM
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I was going to say brazier or incense burner or the base for one. Maybe meant to be more ornamental than useful.

Its not a Catholic baptismal font IMO, it would not be made of those materials, and in the era it appears to be from Catholic fonts were standing height. I can't speak for other baptismal rites, but aren't they mostly by immersion?

    Bookmark   July 22, 2009 at 9:20PM
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Ever wandered around some of the old cathedrals and churches in southern Europe? There are lots of short baptismal fonts....and on the site I linked there is one German one that is very similar.

    Bookmark   July 23, 2009 at 12:39AM
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1. A foot washing bowl for Southern Baptists and Primitive Baptists. [Religious ritual] ?

2. A fancy doggie water dish?

    Bookmark   July 23, 2009 at 3:29AM
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My first thought was Asian incense burner. The bowl is filled with sand and burning incense sticks stood upright in the sand as an offering before an altar.

    Bookmark   July 23, 2009 at 11:07AM
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It is certainly not a baptismal font for a Roman Catholic Church (which would always have a cross or similar inscription on them and never be so short with handles like that), but of course it could be a baptismal font for another faith. I like colleenoz's idea--when I read it the image became clear in my mind! I've seen similar incense burners in Thailand.

    Bookmark   July 23, 2009 at 7:33PM
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Just amazing what you can find online! Check out this link.

I haven't looked through it all yet, but there are some similar pieces. AND, there seems to be a forum where you might inquire whether your piece is indeed an incense burner!

    Bookmark   July 23, 2009 at 7:40PM
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There are many many baptismal fonts in Catholic churches that are short and lacking a cross or other symbolism. Also the cross might have been on a lid.
Here's one at the Cathedral in Magdeburg, Germany. There are more. Check Google images. It's not uncommon for a font to be placed on a plinth and to have a lid. This piece appears to have had a lid at one time.
I think it's European or American. I think it dated from about the mid 19th century....and it could have been used for a baptismal font. It could also have been used to hold sand to put out cigarettes and cigars in a fancy hotel...or to hold incense sticks.
But it's unwise to say that a Roman Catholic baptismal font would ALWAYS have a cross or inscription.
I can show you lots of pictures of Roman Catholic fonts without inscriptions.
But, the more I think of it, the more I like the idea of a sand bucket for smokes. The handles would provide for easy emptying...
But the piece looks like it had a lid....
Adds to the puzzle!

Here is a link that might be useful: Italian font

    Bookmark   July 23, 2009 at 11:27PM
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The item in question is maybe a foot and a half tall. That's not short.......that's something a priest would have to get down on his knees to use, or place on a table of some sort. It's also not portable enough to throw on the back of a horse for house calls. I think if we are dating this piece to the mid nineteenth century (myself I suspect a bit later than that) we need to consider what the customs were in that era in the church.

For planned sacraments, the parishioners traveled to the church. In my county, they traveled twenty some miles to the next county as often as they could manage for things like baptisms and weddings, until a kind protestant donated the land and money for the first Catholic church here. A church was a permanent fixture and cornerstone of the community. Even in this new territory, they tended to be permanent and have stone baptismal fonts. If a priest had to travel somewhere for an emergency baptism, a font isn't even necessary.......just the water, the words and the proper intention. There simply wasn't a need for a not-so-portable "portable" font. At that time the Church also had guidelines as to the form and design of fonts. Stone was the preference, pedestals were also. There are exceptions, but if this is one, then it's a keeper because it would really be special.

    Bookmark   July 24, 2009 at 2:07AM
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lindac, you are clearly an expert in such things, so I bow to your greater judgement. But as a 20 year plus university professor of Catholic culture and architecture I have never seen a Roman Catholic baptismal font even remotely close to this one and I've seen a million of them in many different countries. There is, however, always a first time, isn't there? I'll run the picture by several priest friends of mine for their opinion.

    Bookmark   July 24, 2009 at 6:54AM
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I personally think it is PART of an umbrella stand, the bottom part where the rain could drip off the umbrellas and collect. You are missing the top cylinder that would actually hold the umbrellas up.

Based on - having seen a few complete ones. They often get split up when someone turns great-grannie's old thingamajig into a stand for potted plants and loses the top part.

    Bookmark   July 24, 2009 at 1:11PM
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I think you're on to something there. I used to have an old Victorian era hall seat, and come to think of had the claw feet, and attached to one arm of it was an umbrella receptacle. It was copper too.

    Bookmark   July 24, 2009 at 3:54PM
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