Skip to main content

Pharmacy jar: MAR.C.68B-1912

An image of Pharmacy jar

Photograph copyright © The Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge.

Terms of use

These images are provided for non-commercial use under a Creative Commons License (BY-NC-ND). To license a high resolution version, please contact our image library who will discuss fees, terms and waivers.

Download this image

Creative commons explained - what it means, how you can use our's and other people's content.

Colours in this image

Alternative views

Object information


Probably Domenego da Venezia (Workshop)


Maiolica pharmacy or storage jar, painted in polychrome with, on one side, a bust of a young man, and on the other, a rectangular label inscribed `Mostarda FA'.

Earthenware, tin-glazed on the exterior and interior; rim and base unglazed. The glaze inside is thinly applied. Painted in bright dark blue, green, greenish-grey, yellow, brownish-orange, manganese, and white. The yellow, orange, and white stand up from the surface. Albarello with wide flat rim, short neck, sloping shoulders, and slightly bowed sides, sloping inwards in a concave curve to the projecting base.
On the front is a rectangular label inscribed `Mostarda FA' in blue gothic script, and framed by scrolls with a face at bottom centre. On the other side, within an oval scrolled frame, is a bust of a young man in profile to left, wearing a doublet, ruff and a soft rounded hat. The rest of the main field is decorated with stylised flowers, fruits, acorns and scrolling foliage, reserved in a blue ground incised with coiling tendrils. There are blue and yellow horizontal bands round the neck and blue, orange, and yellow bands above the edge of the base.


History note: Unknown before C.B. Marlay

Legal notes

C.B. Marlay Bequest

Measurements and weight

Height: 39.5 cm

Place(s) associated

  • Venice ⪼ The Veneto ⪼ Italy

Acquisition and important dates

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


Third quarter of 16th century
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, a fruit pickle or sauce. While mustard was possibly the contents of some jars, it seems more likely that the majority of large jars held fruit pickle. The essential ingredient was cooked must (mosto cotto), freshly pressed grape juice which was boiled and reduced until it became thick and black, almost like molasses. Its sugar level and acidity made it an excellent preservative for the fruit content, particularly when combined with mustard seeds (semi di senape). Modern Venetian recipes usually include a purée of quinces, or other fruit, such as pears and apples, cooked in white wine, to which are added chopped candied fruit, sugar, mustard, spices and salt. This mixture is cooked until it becomes very thick before being put into containers. It is still made in the Veneto.

School or Style


People, subjects and objects depicted

Components of the work

Decoration composed of high-temperature colours ( bright dark blue, green, greenish-grey, yellow, brownish-orange, manganese, and white) Rim Diameter 21.5 cm
Base Diameter 22 cm
Widest Part Width 28.9 cm

Materials used in production

except rim and base unglazed Tin-glaze Earthenware

Techniques used in production

Throwing : Earthenware, tin-glazed on the exterior and interior; rim and base unglazed. The glaze inside is thinly applied. Painted in bright dark blue, green, greenish-grey, yellow, brownish-orange, manganese, and white. The yellow, orange, and white stand up from the surface.

Inscription or legends present

Inscription present: rectangular label

  • Text: Mostarda FA
  • Location: On the front
  • Method of creation: Inscribed in blue gothic script

References and bibliographic entries

Related exhibitions

Identification numbers

Accession number: MAR.C.68B-1912
Primary reference Number: 77388
Stable URI

Audit data

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

Associated departments & institutions

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

Citation for print

This record can be cited in the Harvard Bibliographic style using the text below:

The Fitzwilliam Museum (2022) "Pharmacy jar" Web page available at: Accessed: 2022-05-18 14:29:01

Citation for Wikipedia

To cite this record on Wikipedia you can use this code snippet:

{{cite web|url=|title=Pharmacy jar|author=The Fitzwilliam Museum|accessdate=2022-05-18 14:29:01|publisher=The University of Cambridge}}

Bootstrap HTML code for reuse

To use this as a simple code embed, copy this string:

<div class="text-center my-3">
    <figure class="figure">
        <img src=""
        alt="Pharmacy jar" class="img-fluid" />
        <figcaption class="figure-caption text-info">Pharmacy jar</figcaption>>

Please enter your name as you would like to be addressed
Please enter your email address
The object accession number - this is prefilled
Please enter your query with as much detail as possible

Suggested products from Curating Cambridge

You might be interested in this...

Sign up for updates

Updates about future exhibitions and displays, family activities, virtual events & news. You'll be the first to know...