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Pharmacy jar: C.64-1927

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Object information

Current Location: In storage


Workshop: Pompei workshop




Maiolica spouted pharmacy jar, painted in blue, green, yellow, and orange, with a bust of a bearded old man, the inscription of the drug `Oymel composito', loose spirals, stripes, and honeysuckle.

Earthenware, tin-glazed except for the base. Painted in blue, green, yellow, and orange. Dragon-spouted baluster jar with strap handle.The spout is surrounded by a truncated heart-shaped panel, enclosing a bust of a bearded old man three-quarters to left, pointing with his right hand to a flaming brazier. The space above is filled by blue and white honeysuckle on a partly yellow and partly orange ground, bordered by two vertical stripes: green and orange on the left of the spout, and green and yellow on the right. The drug name `Oymel composito' is inscribed in gothic letters on a label with curled ends between yellow horizontal bands which encircle the lower part of the jar. On the back there are loose blue spirals, and on the handle and between the ends of the label, blue diagonal stripes. The projecting rim is decorated with orange scallops on a dark blue band with a pale green band below.


History note: A. Wylie; F. Leverton Harris (1864-1926)

Legal notes

F. Leverton Harris Bequest, 1926

Measurements and weight

Height: 25.9 cm

Place(s) associated

  • Castelli ⪼ The Abruzzi ⪼ Italy

Acquisition and important dates

Method of acquisition: Bequeathed (1927) by Harris, Frederick Leverton


16th Century
Circa 1545 CE - 1555 CE


Label text from the exhibition ‘Feast and Fast: The Art of Food in Europe, 1500–1800’, on display at The Fitzwilliam Museum from 26 November 2019 until 31 August 2020: Early modern ‘pharmacy jars’ often had painted labels to indicate their contents. These inscriptions frequently used the specialised vocabulary of published medical texts and ‘books of secrets’. This pharmacy jar, formed as a spouted pitcher, is labelled: ‘O[x]ymel composito’. Made with vinegar and honey, Oxymel was a therapeutic sweet- and-sour concoction known from ancient Roman sources, used to treat asthma as well as conjunctivitis. The warming nature of the remedy is alluded to by the old man who points at a flaming brazier.

Made in the workshop of Orazio Pompei in Castelli. Pharmacy jars of this type were formerly attributed to Faenza or Deruta before an excavation in Castelli revealed matching waste sherds from the workshop of the Pompei family.

School or Style


People, subjects and objects depicted

Components of the work

Decoration composed of high-temperature colours ( blue, green, yellow, and orange)
Base Diameter 10.3 cm
Rim Diameter 12.1 cm
Widest Part Width 23.5 cm

Materials used in production

except base Tin-glaze

Techniques used in production


Inscription or legends present

  • Text: Oymel composito
  • Location: On lower part of jug
  • Method of creation: Painted in Gothic letters
  • Type: Inscription

References and bibliographic entries

Related exhibitions

Identification numbers

Accession number: C.64-1927
Primary reference Number: 75726
Stable URI

Audit data

Created: Saturday 6 August 2011 Updated: Friday 21 April 2023 Last processed: Thursday 3 August 2023

Associated departments & institutions

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

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