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Pilgrim bottle

  • Place of origin:

    Urbino (made)

  • Date:

    ca. 1550 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Unknown

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Tin-glazed earthenware

  • Credit Line:

    Bequeathed by George Salting, Esq.

  • Museum number:

    C.2299-1910

  • Gallery location:

    Medieval & Renaissance, Room 62, The Foyle Foundation Gallery, case 12 []

During the sixteenth century the diet of the elite expanded. New ingredients were available from a widening global market and lavish recipes proliferated in the period. For the first time, gastronomic literature became part of the food culture of the wealthy. What was eaten and drunk mattered as it reflected and constructed an individual's social status. New ceramic forms for holding the growing variety of types of foodstuffs and for accommodating the stylish modes of eating were developed; such as crespine (moulded dishes for holding fruit), piatte detti da carne (meat plates) and rinfrescatoio (coolers). Knowledge of the specific functions of the new forms also formed part of the self-conscious preoccupation with discernment and decorum. During the century a number of codified philosophical ideas on manners, cleanliness and hospitality that reflected this concern were written.
The introduction of individual vessels, cutlery, napkins, tablecloths and place settings at table also signaled a development in the elite modes of eating and drinking. It marked a change with the earlier medieval practice of sharing implements. For the first time dining "services" were produced with individual flatware or plates for those at table. Sets were produced in standard quantities, plates were sold in by six or twelve. As luxury items, however maiolica services were however also specially commissioned and often decorated with the appropriate heraldic devices and imprese linking the individual service with the patron. However, it is likely that these items were reserved for occasional use or display purposes only.
From the end of the fifteenth century maiolicaware was often painted with antique narratives known as "istoriato". The depiction of these ancient myths and histories, painted in perspective, echoed the intellectual interests of the period. Indeed, the idea behind such decoration on vessels for eating and drinking may have been that guests would have been able to recognize the stories and characters, which reflected on and flattered their classical learning and erudition.

Physical description

Pilgrim bottle with screw stopper and two moulded satyr's mask handles. Manganese purple added to the usual palette. A continuous landscape covers the surface, with incidents from the story of Europa; above is a shield with the arms of Cardinal Robert de Lenoncourt. On one side, Jupiter sitting with his eagle at his feet, is instructing Mercury to go to Sidon; to the right are Juno seated and three male figures. On the other side, the herdsmen of Agenor in Phrygian cap, is seen watching Europa and her maidens who are gathered round 2 bulls.

Place of Origin

Urbino (made)

Date

ca. 1550 (made)

Artist/maker

Unknown

Materials and Techniques

Tin-glazed earthenware

Dimensions

Height: 36 cm, Width: 23.5 cm, Depth: 13.5 cm, Weight: 1.25 kg

Object history note

Fountaine Sale Cat., Christie's, 17 June 1884, Lot 226; B.F.A.C.Cat., 1887, no,262; Guide, p.63. Robert de Lenoncourt was created in 1538; he died in 1561. A plate with the same arms and a battle-scene repr. Von Pannwitz Sale Cat., Munich, 24-25 October 1905, pl. XXX, No.254

Historical significance: From the end of the fifteenth century maiolica was often painted with antique narratives known as "istoriato". The depiction of these ancient myths and histories, painted in perspective, echoed the intellectual interests of the period. Indeed, the idea behind such decoration on vessels for eating and drinking may have been that guests would have been able to recognize the stories and characters, which reflected on and flattered their classical learning and erudition. The form of the pilgrim bottle had been in existence since the eleventh century. However, in this example, the original function, that of carrying water on journeys, would have no longer applied. Nevertheless, the shape of the bottle allowed for innovative design that often enabled the narrative to move around the vessel. It is a form well suited for a depiction of stories of Europa. It is possible that this bottle would have formed part of It is possible that this bottle would have formed part of the display on a credenza.

Historical context note

During the sixteenth century the diet of the elite expanded. New ingredients were available from a widening global market and lavish recipes proliferated in the period. For the first time, gastronomic literature became part of the food culture of the wealthy. A number of codified philosophical ideas on manners, cleanliness and hospitality were written revealing a broader preoccupation with behaviour and social status. The introduction of individual vessels, cutlery, napkins, tablecloths and place settings at table also signaled a development in the elite modes of eating and drinking. It marked a change with the earlier medieval practice of sharing eating implements. For the first time dining "services" were produced with individual flatware or plates for those at table. Sets were produced in standard quantities, plates were sold by six or twelve. Clear glass known as cristallino which was often enameled and gilded, produced in Murano, became desirable for drinking vessels. There is evidence to suggest that fine maiolica services may have been displayed on the credenza in the same manner as silver.

Descriptive line

Pilgrim bottle with scenes from the story of Europa, Urbino, ca. 1550.

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

Ajmar-Wollheim, Marta & Flora Dennis (Eds.)Renaissance at Home. London: V&A Museum, 2006.
Hess, Catherine (Ed.). The Arts of Fire: Islamic Influences on Glass and Ceramics of the Italian Renaissance. Los Angeles, The J. Paul Getty Museum, 2004.
Syson, Luke and Dora Thornton. Objects of Virtue: Art in Renaissance Italy. London, British Museum, 2001.
Wilson, Timothy. Ceramic Art of the Italian Renaissance. London: British Museum, 1987.
Watson, Wendy M. Italian Renaissance Ceramics From the Howard I. And Janet H. Stein Collection and the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Exh.cat. Philadelphia: The Philadelphia Museum of Art, 2001.
Timothy Wilson, 'The Maiolica-Painter Francesco Durantino: Mobility and Collaboration in Urbino "istoriato"', in Italienische Fayencen der Renaissance: Ihre Spuren in internationalen Museumssammlungen, ed. Silvia Glaser (Nuremberg 2004), pp. 111-145., Fig. 15

Labels and date

PILGRIM BOTTLE
About 1550-60

Flasks of this shape were carried by pilgrims visiting Christian shrines in Palestine and the Middle East. This one, however, was probably displayed on a tiered sideboard or 'buffet'. It is painted with the classical story of Jupiter abducting Europa, a subject that theologians saw as an allegory of Christ carrying the human soul to heaven.

Italy, probably Urbino

Tin-glazed earthenware (maiolica)

With the arms of Cardinal Robert de Lenoncourt (created cardinal 1538)

Museum no. C.2299-1910 [2008]

Materials

Earthenware; Tin glaze

Techniques

Painting

Categories

Earthenware; Containers; Myths & Legends

Collection

Ceramics Collection

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