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Pharmacy jar: C.185-1991

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Object information

Current Location: Gallery 7 (Courtauld)


Maker: Unknown (Probably)




Renaissance maiolica two-handled pharmacy jar, painted in blue, green and yellow with, on the front, a woman in a landscape surrounded by grotesques.

Red earthenware, the interior lead-glazed; the exterior tin-glazed, but applied thinly on the back and appearing pinkish-grey in places. Painted in blue, green, and yellow.
Albarello with straight sides, sloping shoulders, a short neck with a groove below the projecting rim and two handles, each composed of three rolls of clay pressed together, with upturned terminals.
The front is decorated with a circular medallion containing a woman standing in a landscape with trees and buildings. She rests her right hand on a shield, and holds a spear in her left. The medallion is surrounded by symmetrical grotesques, including dolphins, flaming torches and foliated scrolls, reserved in a rectangular blue panel. A wide label with pairs of blue horizontal bands above and below, encircles the lower part of the jar. The front is inscribed in blue. Below, and on the shoulder at the front, there are foliated scrolls painted in blue alla porcellana. The handles and rim are green.


History note: Dr Alfred Pringsheim; Sotheby's, 7 June 1939, lot 43; H.S. Reitlinger (d.1950); the Reitlinger Trust, Maidenhead, from which transferred in 1991.

Legal notes

H.S. Reitlinger Bequest, 1950; transferred from the Reitlinger Trust, 1991

Measurements and weight

Height: 37 cm
Width: 30.1 cm

Place(s) associated

  • Siena ⪼ Tuscany ⪼ Italy

Acquisition and important dates

Method of acquisition: Bequeathed (1991-04-29) by Reitlinger, Henry Scipio


16th Century, Early#
Circa 1510 CE - 1530 CE


The jar was one of a set of pharmacy jars of which nine other examples are known, each with a different contents label. The inscription on this jar 'SLI RoI P stands for the Latin, salvia ridotto praeparatio (reduced sage preparation).

This pharmacy jar was attributed to Faenza in the unpublished third volume of the Pringsheim collection, and to Castel Durante in the Catalogue of the Pringsheim Sale, but the red fabric and bluish-green handles and rim suggest a Tuscan origin. In 1987 Wilson tentatively attributed the British Museum's jar to Montelupo, citing for comparison the grotesques on a jug which was excavated there. Luccarelli has attributed the two in the Museo Civico, Massa Marittima, to Siena, where grotesques were a prominent feature of frescos and tile pavements. The panel on the front of the Fitzwilliam's jar seems to support Luccarelli's view, for both figure and landscape are similar in style to a series of late fifteenth-century panels representing famous men and women attributed to the Master of Griselda with Neroccio de' Landi (1447-1500) or Signorelli (active 1470-1523). The pavilion and trees in particu¬lar are reminiscent of those in the back¬ground of Alexander the Great in the Barber Institute, Birmingham. Other features of the jar support a Siena attri¬bu¬tion. The form could have evolved from the large relief-blue albarelli bearing the emblem of Santa Maria della Scala in Siena, although it is not certain that they were made there. A Siena or Siena area also seems to be supported by a Sienese floor tile with a comparable figure on the front. However, scientific analysis of this jar and an example in the British Museum, did not support an attribution to Siena.

School or Style


People, subjects and objects depicted

Components of the work

Decoration composed of high-temperature colours ( blue, green, and yellow)
Exterior composed of lead-glaze
Interior composed of tin-glaze
Base Diameter 15.5 cm
Rim Diameter 15.8 cm

Materials used in production


Inscription or legends present

Inscription present: square

  • Text: 204
  • Method of creation: Inscribed in pencil
  • Type: Label

References and bibliographic entries

Related exhibitions

Identification numbers

Accession number: C.185-1991
Primary reference Number: 48315
Stable URI

Audit data

Created: Saturday 6 August 2011 Updated: Monday 18 December 2023 Last processed: Tuesday 13 February 2024

Associated departments & institutions

Owner or interested party: The Fitzwilliam Museum
Associated department: Applied Arts

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