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Pharmacy jar: MAR.C.68A-1912

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Object information

Current Location: In storage


Workshop: Domenego da Venezia




Maiolica pharmacy or storage jar, painted in polychrome with, on one side, a grotesque male head, and on the other side, a label inscribed `Mostarda FA'.

Earthenware, tin-glazed off-white on the exterior and interior; rim and base unglazed. Painted in bright dark blue, green, yellow, orange, manganese, black, and white. The yellow and orange stand up from the surface.
Albarello with wide flat rim, curving shoulders, and straight sides, sloping inwards diagonally above the projecting base.
On the front is a rectangular label inscribed `Mostarda FA' in black Gothic script, and on the other side, an oval scrolled frame enclosing a grotesque male head in profile to left. The rest of the main field and the shoulders are decorated with stylised flowers and scrolling foliage, reserved in a dark blue ground incised with coiling tendrils. On the neck, the shoulders and the edge of the base are yellow and blue horizontal bands with narrow orange bands over the former.


History note: Unknown.

Legal notes

C.B. Marlay Bequest

Measurements and weight

Height: 37.8 cm

Place(s) associated

  • Venice ⪼ The Veneto ⪼ Italy

Acquisition and important dates

Method of acquisition: Bequeathed (1912) by Marlay, Charles Brinsley


16th Century, third quarter#
Circa 1560 CE - 1570 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: Pair of storage jars for mostarda fina (fruit pickle) Storage containers for preserved food often had substantial capacity like this vibrant pair for ‘Mostarda f[in]a’, a fruit pickle or sauce for culinary and medicinal purposes. Recipes usually included a purée of quinces, pears, or apples, to which chopped candied fruit, sugar, mustard, spices, and salt were added, before cooking and thickening in cooked must (‘mosto cotto’ made from boiled down grape juice) whose high sugar content and acidity made it an excellent preservative. Combined with mustard seeds that have powerful anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties, it was a highly effective way of preserving fruit – still in use today, especially in north Italy.

The jar held Mostarda Fina, which means either fine mustard or a fruit pickle or sauce, known as mostarda. While mustard was possibly the contents of some jars, it seems more likely that the majority of large jars held fruit pickle. Most large jars of this type which have labels are inscribed Mostarda, and if all were filled with mustard, it would be necessary to explain why Venetians were consuming such vast quantities for culinary and medicinal purposes in comparison with citizens of other Italian towns. For another jar paired with this see MAR.C.68B-1912.

People, subjects and objects depicted

Components of the work

Decoration composed of high-temperature colours ( bright dark blue, green, yellow, orange, manganese, black, and white)
Base Diameter 19.4 cm
Rim Diameter 19.8 cm
Widest Part Width 28.5 cm

Materials used in production

except rim and base Tin-glaze

Techniques used in production

Tin-glazing : Earthenware, tin-glazed off-white on the exterior and interior; rim and base unglazed. Painted in bright dark blue, green, yellow, orange, manganese, black, and white. The yellow and orange stand up from the surface.

Inscription or legends present

Inscription present: in a rectangular label

  • Text: Mostarda FA
  • Location: On the front
  • Method of creation: Inscribed in black Gothic script

Inscription present: rectangular with cut corners and blue printed border

  • Text: 16323/Pau M 100
  • Method of creation: Inscribed in black ink
  • Type: Label

References and bibliographic entries

Related exhibitions

Identification numbers

Accession number: MAR.C.68A-1912
Primary reference Number: 77387
Stable URI

Audit data

Created: Saturday 6 August 2011 Updated: Thursday 18 November 2021 Last processed: Thursday 7 December 2023

Associated departments & institutions

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

Citation for print

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The Fitzwilliam Museum (2024) "Pharmacy jar" Web page available at: Accessed: 2024-07-22 12:23:36

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