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Vase

  • Place of origin:

    Tonalá (made)

  • Date:

    ca. 1600-1700 (made)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    earthenware

  • Museum number:

    287-1872

  • Gallery location:

    Ceramics, Room 145, case 42, shelf 1

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.

Physical description

Earthenware vessel with burnished red slip, the surface covered in dimples with three handles and supported on a raised foot. Made in Mexico.

Place of Origin

Tonalá (made)

Date

ca. 1600-1700 (made)

Materials and Techniques

earthenware

Dimensions

Height: 26 cm, Width: 28 cm maximum

Historical context note

Highly-polished earthenware vessels from Tonalá 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

Red earthenware vase, or vessel for storing water

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

Maxwell, Christopher. Let them eat clay: Mexican búcaros in the Victoria and Albert Museum, London. Keramos. 2010 (209), pp. 3-16.

Materials

Earthenware (red)

Techniques

Slip-coated; Thrown

Categories

Ceramics; Earthenware

Collection

Ceramics Collection

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