Drug Jar thumbnail 1
Image of Gallery in South Kensington
On display at V&A South Kensington
Ceramics, Room 143, The Timothy Sainsbury Gallery

Drug Jar

1501 (made)
Artist/Maker
Place of origin

This drug jar, of unusually large size, is part of a famous set, all of which bear the emblem of the 'Moor's Head' and a monastic badge incorporating the letters P A M Q. This particular jar was used for "SALE ARMVNIACO" (sal amoniac) or AMMONIUM CHLORIDE, NH4C1, the earliest known salt of ammonia (q.v.), which was formerly much used in dyeing and metallurgic operations.
Pharmacies in the Renaissance period were often run by a monastic orders as part of their hospitals and their badges are often incorporated in the decoration of the jars.

A significant number of black Africans were living in Europe during the 15th and 16th centuries, the majority as slaves in wealthy homes. The ‘Moor’s Head’ emblem, in which a black head wearing a narrow headband is presented in profile, has existed since the middle ages. Its origins may lie in the invasion of Spain and Portugal in 711 by African and Arab Muslim forces led by General Tariq ibn-Ziyad. It is an image of nobility, one much used in European heraldry.


Object details

Category
Object type
Materials and techniques
Tin-glazed earthenware, painted in colours
Brief description
Drug-jar, tin-glazed earthenware, painted in colours and inscription SALE ARMVNIACO,, made in Deruta, dated 1501
Physical description
Drug-jar, tin-glazed earthenware, painted in blue, yellow, orange and copper green. The inscription 'SALE ARMVNIACO' is placed on a painted label in the center of a wreath. In the lower half of the wreath, a moor's head en profil, and above the label a oxskull. Incorporated in the wreath at the top and bottom, a monastic badge. The date 1501 is painted on the back.
Dimensions
  • Height: 32.0cm
  • Diameter: 21.5cm
Marks and inscriptions
  • 'SALE ARMVNIACO' (or AMMONIUM CHLORIDE, NH4C1, the earliest known salt of ammonia (q.v.), formerly much used in dyeing and metallurgic operations.)
  • 'PAMQ' [in monogram] under a patriarchal cross (This is a badge of the monasterial order who commissioned this jar for their pharmacy.)
  • Incised marks (Incised marks on the bottom, made after firing. Their meaning is unclear, but might be related to measurements of the original contents.)
Credit line
Gaisford St. Lawrence Collection, purchased out of the funds of the John Webb Trust.
Object history
Gaisford St. Lawrence Collection, purchased out of the funds of the John Webb Trust.
Historical context
This large drug jar is part of a large set made for an unidentifed pharmacy. This particular jar was used for SALE ARMVNIACO , Sal-ammoniac, ammonium chloride
The constriction just underneath the rim was used to close the pot off with a piece of parchment or paper and a string.
Production
dated 1501
Summary
This drug jar, of unusually large size, is part of a famous set, all of which bear the emblem of the 'Moor's Head' and a monastic badge incorporating the letters P A M Q. This particular jar was used for "SALE ARMVNIACO" (sal amoniac) or AMMONIUM CHLORIDE, NH4C1, the earliest known salt of ammonia (q.v.), which was formerly much used in dyeing and metallurgic operations.
Pharmacies in the Renaissance period were often run by a monastic orders as part of their hospitals and their badges are often incorporated in the decoration of the jars.

A significant number of black Africans were living in Europe during the 15th and 16th centuries, the majority as slaves in wealthy homes. The ‘Moor’s Head’ emblem, in which a black head wearing a narrow headband is presented in profile, has existed since the middle ages. Its origins may lie in the invasion of Spain and Portugal in 711 by African and Arab Muslim forces led by General Tariq ibn-Ziyad. It is an image of nobility, one much used in European heraldry.
Bibliographic references
  • R. Drey, Apothecary Jars: pharmaceutical pottery and porcelain in Europe and the East 1150-1850, London, 1978, p. 41, fig 12 a
  • Fiocco & Gherardi, Ceramiche Umbre, vol. I, Faenza 1988, pp. 60-61, figs. 20-22
  • Fiocco & Gherardi, La ceramica di Deruta dal XIII al XVIII sec., Perugia, 1994,pp. 181-184, figs. 52-57
  • Wison, T., Ceramic Art of the Renaissance, London, British Museum, 1987, cat 38, pp. 39-40
Other number
390 - Rackham (1977)
Collection
Accession number
C.132-1931

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Record createdDecember 15, 2005
Record URL
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