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March 6, 2010

Note sent to an eBay vendor
Posted by Teresa at 12:19 PM * 88 comments

Item: VINTAGE ITALIAN DUCK WALL FOUNTAIN

Note sent via eBay:

Hi there —

I could be wrong about this, but what that looks like to me is a holy water font. If so, the water dispenser above it is a dove, not a duck.

I freely admit that it looks more like a duck, but you just don’t see a lot of ducks used as holy water dispensers.

Cheers —

No blame at all on the vendor. They pick this stuff up at estate sales. She’s not in the same league as the one I saw who’d listed a folkloric old scapular as a pincushion meant to hang round your neck while you’re sewing.

Addenda: Immediately after posting this, I clicked through on the link to make sure it worked, and found the vendor had already retitled the auction VINTAGE ITALIAN DUCK WALL FOUNTAIN holy water font. I’m impressed. That’s faster than Cory Doctorow.

More: The vendor further replies:

You may be right on the holy … but them webbed feet scream duck … thanks
Ghu! She’s right. I’d thought those brass bits were mounting hardware, but after peering hard at the large versions of the photos, I’m forced to agree that they’re webbed feet.

It’s a holy water font. With a duck.

Further addendum: Debra Doyle says it’s a lavabo, originally an ecclesiastical handwashing device.

So: it’s a lavabo. With a duck.

Comments on Note sent to an eBay vendor:
#1 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: March 06, 2010, 12:46 PM:

A scapular would make a very small pincushion.

#2 ::: kid bitzer ::: (view all by) ::: March 06, 2010, 01:24 PM:

"Qui vous a mis dans cette fichue position?"

" - C'est le pigeon, Joseph. "

"Mais non, Marie--c'est un canard!"

#3 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: March 06, 2010, 01:43 PM:

That’s faster than Cory Doctorow.

Maybe too fast....

Have you submitted this to YouSuckAtCraigslist.com?

#4 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 06, 2010, 01:47 PM:

Is this a duck taper?

#5 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: March 06, 2010, 01:48 PM:

Also: Dove or duck, that's one silly-looking bird! And then there's the dragonfly (?) sitting on it's head....

#6 ::: Alter S. Reiss ::: (view all by) ::: March 06, 2010, 01:51 PM:

My favorite ebay antiquities listing was from a few years back: A "Roman tobacco pipe with vegetation from the Dead Sea."

#7 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 06, 2010, 01:57 PM:

For sale... Copy of the Necronomicon. Barely used.

#8 ::: Anna Lawrence ::: (view all by) ::: March 06, 2010, 02:47 PM:

I'm so delighted by the thought of the Holy Duck ascending that I hardly care about the rest of it.

#9 ::: Kip W ::: (view all by) ::: March 06, 2010, 03:31 PM:

Duck or dove, I'm not blessing myself in something that came gushing out of a bird's mouth.

#10 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: March 06, 2010, 03:43 PM:

I've heard back from the vendor again, who makes a good point. I have accordingly posted another addendum to the main entry, corrected myself, and dropped a note to Gadgets for God.

#11 ::: Wil Macaulay ::: (view all by) ::: March 06, 2010, 03:43 PM:

Why a duck?

#12 ::: Joel Polowin ::: (view all by) ::: March 06, 2010, 03:52 PM:

The Romans were famous for their aqua ducks.

#13 ::: KeithS ::: (view all by) ::: March 06, 2010, 03:59 PM:

It looks more like a dove than a duck to me, although it still is definitely rather duckish. I'd bet that the webbed feet are an artifact of construction, so that the little toes don't snap off.

#14 ::: Leroy F. Berven ::: (view all by) ::: March 06, 2010, 04:06 PM:

Joel @ 12: Azurely we knew that.

#15 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: March 06, 2010, 04:08 PM:

I could just teal that this thread was going to go this way.

#16 ::: Janet Brennan Croft ::: (view all by) ::: March 06, 2010, 04:16 PM:

One of its legs are both the same.

#17 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: March 06, 2010, 04:17 PM:

I'm now riven with thoughts of T.S. Eliot rewriting Little Gidding:

The duck descending breaks the air
With flame of incandescent terror.

That would alter the mallardy a bit.

#18 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 06, 2010, 04:32 PM:

I find myself being reminded that, circa 1980, someone showed up in a con masquerade as Duck Savage.

#19 ::: Del Cotter ::: (view all by) ::: March 06, 2010, 04:47 PM:

And I said, Oh that I had feet like a duck! Then would I swim away, and be at rest.

#20 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 06, 2010, 04:56 PM:

Will Macaulay @ 11... :-)

#21 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: March 06, 2010, 05:02 PM:

Will Macaulay #11: No, no: Vy a duck?

#22 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: March 06, 2010, 05:20 PM:

18
Jack Harness. Google is finding a photo of it, from 1974.

#23 ::: Scott W ::: (view all by) ::: March 06, 2010, 05:32 PM:

Reading Jack Harness as Jack Harkness @22 is a very good way to ruin keyboards.

#24 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: March 06, 2010, 05:37 PM:

Kip, #9: Better the mouth than the other end!

#25 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: March 06, 2010, 05:40 PM:

Clearly the Cosmic Axis has shifted and the font is trapped in a world it never made.

#26 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: March 06, 2010, 05:44 PM:

I plan to eBay some of my comic book collection soon. I dread the prospect; it feels like selling off children to make sure the rest are fed.

#27 ::: Jon Meltzer ::: (view all by) ::: March 06, 2010, 05:55 PM:

Why not a duck?

#28 ::: DaveL ::: (view all by) ::: March 06, 2010, 05:57 PM:

I dunno. My uncle, who was Catholic and whose wife was Italian, had decorative wall fonts a lot like that in his house. I'm pretty sure they weren't used for holy water, although I admit he was quite devout.

I've seen similar ones in other houses whose decor was Italian-inspired. They are always two pieces with a spigot on the bottom side of the top piece. I've never seen either water or plants (some look planter-like in the top segment) in one.

#29 ::: Ginger ::: (view all by) ::: March 06, 2010, 06:51 PM:

Well, no matter why this is a duck, I do know how to fix one should it break: with duck tape.

#30 ::: Tatterbots ::: (view all by) ::: March 06, 2010, 07:05 PM:

What is the difference between a duck?
One of its webbed feet is both the same.

#31 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: March 06, 2010, 07:13 PM:

I will be posting beaded projects from Beading For A Cure (non-profit that raises money for colon cancer research) starting at about 3pm ET tomorrow and every following Sunday (except the one before Easter) until 5/2. Have a look.

#32 ::: Leroy F. Berven ::: (view all by) ::: March 06, 2010, 07:14 PM:

Ginger @ 29: Yup, duck tape is very useful for fixing a wide variety of quacked items.

#34 ::: Pendrift ::: (view all by) ::: March 06, 2010, 07:49 PM:

Leroy F. Berven @32: That's absolutely true; it's not just a canard.

#35 ::: Debra Doyle ::: (view all by) ::: March 06, 2010, 08:23 PM:

I think what we're looking at here is a lavabo, a water-container-and-basin setup intended for the washing of hands -- originally a piece of liturgical equipment, but one that spun off secular versions. These days, they get repurposed a lot as decorative wall planters or containers for floral arrangements, like this one here.

#36 ::: Rob Wynne ::: (view all by) ::: March 06, 2010, 08:43 PM:

I believe the preacher in Blazing Saddles was going to read from the books of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and Duck.

#37 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: March 06, 2010, 10:29 PM:

Lavabo, as in "I will wash"?

#38 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: March 06, 2010, 10:40 PM:

That rhymes well with Isabeau (from Ladyhawke).

#39 ::: Debra Doyle ::: (view all by) ::: March 06, 2010, 11:03 PM:

Teresa@37: Lavabo, as in "I will wash"?

Yep.

#40 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: March 06, 2010, 11:12 PM:

"Lavabo" is also the French word for "bathroom sink." (As opposed to "kitchen sink," which is "évier," which is where we get "ewer.")

#41 ::: Soon Lee ::: (view all by) ::: March 06, 2010, 11:15 PM:

Am I the only one reminded of the Bishop's Bird Stump?

#42 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: March 06, 2010, 11:47 PM:

TexAnne #40: As opposed to "kitchen sink," which is "évier," which is where we get "ewer."

Ah, so "Evian" is French for "tap water" (aka "water from the kitchen sink")? heh.

#43 ::: pericat ::: (view all by) ::: March 07, 2010, 01:15 AM:

Soon Lee @41 This duck hasn't anything like that level of impossible, glorious gaucherie.

Though for a duck, it's certainly making an effort.

#44 ::: SeanH ::: (view all by) ::: March 07, 2010, 04:32 AM:

#35: I think what we're looking at here is a lavabo

Indeed! Zat I should wash my 'ands in such a ridiculous device? Is lavabo! Hah!

#45 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 07, 2010, 06:48 AM:

TexAnne @ 40... "Lavabo" is also the French word for "bathroom sink."

Oui, oui! And here is a photo of one. Please note that they don't normally come equipped with cats.

#46 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: March 07, 2010, 07:15 AM:

Earl, 42: I can't always tell when people are joking (too many idiot boys laughing at the "surrender monkeys" will do that to you) but "Evian" is actually the name of the town where the springs are. The fact that it's "naive" spelled backwards is just a glorious coincidence.

#47 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: March 07, 2010, 08:33 AM:

TexAnne @46, when I use the word "heh", it's meant to be a clear sign that I'm joking (or sometimes indulging in self-deprecation). I prefer it to emoticons, as it can be nuanced by context rather than codified by ASCII.

Another of my favorite willful culinary misinterpretations is that "vindaloo" means "wine of the toilet". heh. Ah, there it is again, so useful....

#48 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 07, 2010, 09:43 AM:

'Eau de toilette' sounds so much classier than what dogs like to drink out of the porcelain bowl.

#49 ::: j ::: (view all by) ::: March 07, 2010, 10:28 AM:

wanna buy a duck?

a what?

a duck.

does it vomit holy water?

of course it vomits holy water. it's a duck.

#50 ::: Randolph ::: (view all by) ::: March 07, 2010, 11:00 AM:

Duck! Dove! Duck! Dove! ...

#51 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 07, 2010, 11:10 AM:

Anybody else remembers Star Trek's episode "Day of the Duck"?

#52 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: March 07, 2010, 11:21 AM:

51
Wasn't that the one where the duck swooped down on the landing party and grabbed the captain?

#53 ::: Joel Polowin ::: (view all by) ::: March 07, 2010, 11:40 AM:

Not to be confused with "Day of the Road Runner".

I suppose a duck is preferable to a seagull, in this context (and in most others).

#54 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 07, 2010, 11:41 AM:

PJ Evans @ 52... You're thinking of the one where the late Ted Cassidy plays a tall artificial fowl called Duck.

#55 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 07, 2010, 11:44 AM:

Let's not forget Shakespeare's "Cry havoc and let loose the ducks of War!"

#56 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: March 07, 2010, 11:45 AM:

Randolph (50): When my buddy yelled "Duck!," I dove for cover.

#57 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 07, 2010, 11:45 AM:

Don Johnson was quite young when he starred in the film of Ellison's "A Boy and His Duck".

#58 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: March 07, 2010, 11:48 AM:

The childhood game Duck, Duck, Holy Water

#59 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: March 07, 2010, 11:50 AM:

58
I don't know that one. We played Freeze Duck, though, and Red Duck, Green Duck.

#60 ::: Sam Kelly ::: (view all by) ::: March 07, 2010, 12:06 PM:

Doves were traditional, but the twin requirements for piped water and splashproof surfaces lead to the widespread introduction of waterfowl as part of plumbing fixtures instead - the architects specified something very ductile.

#61 ::: kid bitzer ::: (view all by) ::: March 07, 2010, 12:34 PM:

so no fans of ulysses, then.

#62 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: March 07, 2010, 12:57 PM:

P J Evans (59): Better known as Duck, Duck, Goose (or, I understand, ...Gray Duck).

#63 ::: mjfgates ::: (view all by) ::: March 07, 2010, 01:34 PM:

This "duck" has FOUR webbed toes. If the existence of real ducks with three webbed toes implies porcelain ducks with four, then having porcelain ducks with four must imply the existence of WICKER ducks with FIVE toes, and so on, until eventually you get to decorative wall-ducks carved out of marble with an infinite number of toes.

Which I guess just shows what happens when you misuse inducktive reasoning.

#64 ::: AlyxL ::: (view all by) ::: March 07, 2010, 01:34 PM:

The lavabo theory sounds about right; I'm sure I've seen something similar, but duckless, in Italy. Not sure how I'd feel about washing my hands in something that had been vomited up by a duck, though.

It did remind me of this impressive Victorian version, from the Victoria and Albert Museum. There's a tank for water at the top, and the water comes out through a bronze goat. Much more sensible...

#65 ::: hapax ::: (view all by) ::: March 07, 2010, 01:41 PM:

Forte dux fell fiat inde riva.

#66 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: March 07, 2010, 01:57 PM:

hapax, 65: That's from the same codex as "Civili, dirigo," isn't it?

#67 ::: theophylact ::: (view all by) ::: March 07, 2010, 02:46 PM:

Whaddaya mean, sinks "don't normally come equipped with cats"?

#68 ::: Cadbury Moose ::: (view all by) ::: March 07, 2010, 04:07 PM:

Earl Cooley III @ #47

Please don't make me post the Bohemian Curry Song[1]

Cadbury.
[1] To the obvious Queen number

#69 ::: Dawno ::: (view all by) ::: March 07, 2010, 05:32 PM:

Serge - I think my grandkittie looks a lot like Agatha

#70 ::: Janet Croft ::: (view all by) ::: March 07, 2010, 06:25 PM:

His needs were few, his room was bare
A lavabo and a fancy chair
And those who thought him a simple clod
Were -- DUCK!! (too late)

#71 ::: Janet Croft ::: (view all by) ::: March 07, 2010, 06:25 PM:

His needs were few, his room was bare
A lavabo and a fancy chair
And those who thought him a simple clod
Were -- DUCK!! (too late)

#72 ::: Janet Croft ::: (view all by) ::: March 07, 2010, 06:37 PM:

Whoopsie. Whoopsie. (Still figuring out Firefox...)

#73 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 07, 2010, 08:40 PM:

Dawno @ 69.... I wonder if your grandkittie and Agatha are entangled particles.

Theophylact @ 67... A site dedicated to kitties in sinks? Oh my.

#74 ::: Dawno ::: (view all by) ::: March 07, 2010, 08:50 PM:

Serge @73 We need to set up an experiment! I'm out of vacuum tubes right now, but I have plenty of copper wire.

#75 ::: Chris ::: (view all by) ::: March 07, 2010, 10:26 PM:

It does look a bit more dovelike if you mentally subtract the painted decorations and picture it as plain white.

I'm also not at all sure those little fanlike bits partway up are actually webbed feet -- can anyone tell what they're made of? I'd suspect them of being added metal froufrou bits.

Also, it doesn't have a duckbill.

#76 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: March 08, 2010, 12:14 AM:

M R DUCKS!

#77 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: March 08, 2010, 12:19 AM:

75
Not all ducks have duckbills, either.

#78 ::: tykewriter ::: (view all by) ::: March 08, 2010, 12:32 AM:

If you say the magic word, will it give you $100?

#79 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: March 08, 2010, 08:38 AM:

tykewriter #78: No, it doesn't have a duck bill!

#80 ::: tykewriter ::: (view all by) ::: March 08, 2010, 09:31 AM:

But does it quack like a duck?

#81 ::: Carrie S. ::: (view all by) ::: March 08, 2010, 10:33 AM:

Duck! Dove! Duck! Dove!

Fire!
.
.
.
.
You're despicable.

#82 ::: tykewriter ::: (view all by) ::: March 09, 2010, 09:38 AM:

O for the feet, for the feet of a duck!
Far away, far away would I swim.
O for the feet, for the feet of a duck!
Far away, far away,
Far away, far away would I swim.

In a muddy place build me a nest...

* BANG *

(Singer swims within range of a punt gun and is mercifully shot.)

#83 ::: Maureen O'Brien ::: (view all by) ::: March 14, 2010, 09:13 PM:

Aquamaniles (jugs used for pouring water over priests' hands) traditionally were animal or bird shaped; and the water comes out through their "mouths", or through a tube coming out of their "chests". So if you're going to be grossed out by this sort of thing, or by it being used at Mass, you're a bit late to the party.

Other than the obvious waterfowl thing, I haven't really been able to find any hagiographical significance to the duck. Isidore's etymological fun associated "anas" (duck) with "natare" (to swim). Pretty much anything that swims in water is good for Christian/baptismal symbolism.

#84 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: March 15, 2010, 12:14 AM:

Saint Cuthbert of Lindisfarne.

#85 ::: pedantic peasant sees possible spam ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2011, 02:23 PM:

An ironic entry, given the Regretsy thread running concurrently. Did the SPAMbot misfire?

#86 ::: Syd sees spamlike material ::: (view all by) ::: February 13, 2012, 08:24 PM:

At #86.

#87 ::: TexAnne sees spam ::: (view all by) ::: February 27, 2012, 10:09 AM:

Not even spam-word-salad, at 87.

#88 ::: Melissa Singer sees something Spammish ::: (view all by) ::: February 27, 2012, 10:10 AM:

at #87.

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