A 16th Century Venice Albarello Apothecary Or Drug Jar




A 16th Century Venice Albarello Apothecary Or Drug Jar

Tin glazed, of slightly waisted cylindrical shape with sloping shoulders and an everted rim, the dark blue ground reserved with polychrome decoration of scrolling leaves and flowers of paler blue, deep ochre, yellow, greens, black and white, an oval cartouche either side, each painted with the head of the same man with exagerrated features wearing a blue cloak with a blue wide-brimmed hat, both portraits are in profile, the first has the man's eyes open and the second has his eyes seemingly closed, both are surrounded by an ochre, white and yellow aura

It is unusual to find portrait cartouches on drug jars at the back as well as the front and is possibly the work of Maestro Domenigo, a leading potter in Venice in this period c 1560 – 80 (cf Rackham, Catalogue VAM No. 978). For a very similar jar attributed to Maestro Domenigo see:

Apothecary Jars by Rudolf E.A. Drey; page 64 plate 27B & C

Circa 1565-1575

16.5 cm high

Broken and restored

This jar was used for storing different drugs belonging to a pharmacy. The constriction just underneath the rim was used to close the pot off with a piece of parchment or paper and a string. Pharmacies in the Renaissance period were usually run by a monastic orders as part of their hospitals, or sometimes by one of the leading local families.

These jars were made in large quantities and the numbers and quality of the decoration ranges from casual to meticulous workmanship, suggesting that the wares emanated from more than one factory.


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