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Shaving basin

Shaving basin

  • Place of origin:

    Delft (probably, made)

  • Date:

    1660-1680 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Unknown

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Tin-glazed earthenware with painted decoration

  • Credit Line:

    Miss Helena Hill Bequest

  • Museum number:

    C.7-1944

  • Gallery location:

    Europe 1600-1815, Room 5, The Friends of the V&A Gallery, case CA2

This dish has a semi-circular gap in its rim to fit around the neck. Such bowls were used by barber-surgeons, barbers who would also perform basic medical procedures, to shave clients and possibly also to collect blood during the bloodletting process. The shape is practical as all liquids can be caught in the bowl. Some also have a small hollow receptacle in the rim which could be used for a small ball of shaving soap. The customer held the basin in his hands with the indentation against his neck, while the barber mixed the soap and water in the bowl to produce a lather. Two holes, pierced through the rim, are for string so that the bowl could be hung on the wall when not in use.

The blue and white decoration is a free interpretation of Chinese (late Wanli) wares of the early 17th century. The Dutch East India Company imported Asian porcelain throughout the 17th century and it became a fashionable and expensive luxury. Dutch potters copied the porcelain's exotic decoration of blue plants and birds in order to make their wares more appealing.

An early eighteenth-century English delftware barber's bowl is decorated with the tools of the barber's trade (V&A Museum number 297-1869) inside the well of the bowl: scissors, a knife, soap and a comb. On the rim is an inscription implying that this particular bowl was for professional use at a barber's shop rather than for domestic use. Similar basins were also made in brass and pewter. Famously, in Cervantes' Don Quixote, published in two volumes in 1605 and 1615 respectively, Quixote wears an old pewter shaving basin on his head which he believes to be a old magic helmet.

Physical description

Shaving basin or 'barber's bowl' with oriental-style floral decoration with birds in concentric bands, painted in blue. Two holes for suspension pierced trough the rim.

Place of Origin

Delft (probably, made)

Date

1660-1680 (made)

Artist/maker

Unknown

Materials and Techniques

Tin-glazed earthenware with painted decoration

Dimensions

Height: 100 mm, Width: 320 mm, Depth: 330 mm

Historical context note

The semi circular gap in the rim of this deep bowl, fits around the neck, so shaving soap and water can be caught in the bowl during shaving. Such bowls were used by barber surgeons, barbers who would also perform basic medical procedures, to shave clients and possibly also to collect blood during the bloodletting process. Some have a small hollow receptacle in the rim which could be used for shaving soap.
Two holes, pierced trough the rim, can fit a piece of string for suspension.
An early eighteenth-century English delftware barber's bowl is decorated with the tools of the barber's trade (V&A Museum number 297-1869) inside the well of the bowl: scissors, a knife, soap and a comb. On the rim is an inscription implying that this particular bowl was for professional use at a barber's shop rather than for domestic use. Similar basins were also made in brass and pewter. Famously, in Cervantes' Don Quixote, published in two volumes in 1605 and 1615 respectively, Quixote wears an old pewter shaving basin on his head which he believes to be a old magic helmet.

Descriptive line

Shaving basin, tin-glazed earthenware painted with blue oriental-style floral decoration with birds in concentric bands, probably Delft, 1660-80

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

Lahaussois, Christine. Faïences de Delft. Paris, 1998, p. 83, cat. 23

Labels and date

Shaving basin
probably made Delft, Netherlands 1660-80
Tin-glazed earthenware with painted decoration

C.7-1944 [16/07/2008]

Materials

Tin glaze; Earthenware

Techniques

Painted

Categories

Ceramics; Delftware; Earthenware

Collection

Ceramics Collection

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