Or are you looking for Search the Archives?

Please complete the form to email this item.



  • Place of origin:

    Tonalá (probably, made)

  • Date:

    1600-1700 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:


  • Materials and Techniques:

    Earthenware, stamped

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    Ceramics, Room 137, The Curtain Foundation Gallery, case H1, shelf 1

Physical description

Unglazed red earthenware beaker with stamped decoration

Place of Origin

Tonalá (probably, made)


1600-1700 (made)



Materials and Techniques

Earthenware, stamped


Height: 8.4 cm, Width: 7.2 cm maximum

Historical context note

Highly-polished earthenware vessels from Tonalá, in the Mexican state of Jalisco, were not only admired by the colonial settlers but exported to Europe in quantities from the early 17th century. The fashion for bùcaros de Indias (aromatic earthenware from Latin America) is well recorded in accounts and Spanish still-life paintings of the period. The vessels were celebrated for their fine and fragrant clay body, which infused a delicate flavour to the water contained within them. Fashionable Spanish ladies were known to eat small fragments of the bùcaros to benefit from certain gastronomic qualities. The aroma could be enhanced by storing the absorbent clay vessels in boxes scented with spices and oils.

Large, dimpled vessels were used to store water. The increased surface area aided evaporation through the thin walls of the unglazed clay. This served to humidify the hot and dry Spanish air. The process also cooled the remaining liquid and released the celebrated aroma of the clay.

Smaller beakers are often characterised by punched, stamped and incised decoration. These delicate vessels appear in many 17th century Spanish still-life paintings, demonstrating that bùcaros were as prized as oriental porcelain or fine glass. Contemporary sources record their use in flavouring water at banquets. They were also thought to purify polluted water and even detect poisoned liquids.

Descriptive line

Unglazed, red earthenware beaker with stamped decoration








Ceramics Collection

Large image request

Please confirm you are using these images within the following terms and conditions, by acknowledging each of the following key points:

Please let us know how you intend to use the images you will be downloading.