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Pharmacy Jar (Albarello)






Pharmacy Jar (Albarello)


About 1435-1475


Earthenware, underglaze blue and overglaze lustre decoration, opaque glaze


38 cm (h.), 19.6 cm (diam.)


Purchase, gift of Harry A. Norton, inv. 1944.Ea.21


Archeology and World Cultures

Lustreware was introduced to Muslim Spain from Iraq or Egypt, and later went on to have an influence on European ceramic production, notably majolica. Mudéjar lustreware was produced by Muslim artisans who had settled at Manises well before the Spanish Reconquista, and there was a tremendous appetite for it among wealthy Christians. Considered the pinnacle of beauty, prestige and refinement, Islamic art remained in demand after the overthrow of the last Muslim principality in Spain. This explains why so many objects produced by Muslim artisans bear the coat of arms of Spanish, French and Italian nobility, in addition to Christological symbols indicating important ecclesiastical patronage. Albarellos like this one originated in Syria, but were used as far as France to store and transport herbs and spices. This Spanish example is decorated with the popular ivy-leaf pattern, undoubtedly destined for medicinal content. Its central undecorated area, functioning as a label, bears a cryptic symbol that must have once indicated an herb or other substance to customs agents, pharmacists and buyers.

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