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Posset pot

  • Place of origin:

    Montague Close, England (possibly, made)
    Pickleherring, England (possibly, made)

  • Date:

    1630-1635 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Unknown (production)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Tin-glazed earthenware, painted

  • Museum number:

    C.32&A-1972

  • Gallery location:

    British Galleries, room 58c, case 2

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Object Type
This represents one of the simplest forms of posset pot, a flaring two-handled beaker with a sucking spout and a lid to keep the contents warm. Other types were either cylindrical, or of the more popular and capacious baluster shape.

Ownership & Use
Many recipes for posset survive and there are numerous references to the drink in diaries and letters of the period. In 1625 Katherine Paston wrote to her son, a student at Cambridge: 'I hope thou dost not eat of those possety curdy drinks, which howsoever pleasing to the palate it may be for a time, yet I am persuaded are most unwholesome and very clogging to the stomach.' The diarist Samuel Pepys recorded drinking a posset after a night of revels in 1668. As well as being given to women after childbirth and to those returning from the fields in winter, they were used to revive anyone too weak to eat a full meal. Possets sometimes replaced the evening meal during Lent.

Design & Decoration
Posset pots were specially designed for this nourishing drink, which was sometimes thickened with bread, oatmeal or biscuits; the crust could be eaten with a spoon, while the liquid below could be sucked through the spout. A disproportionate number of posset pots have survived, as they were often used only on special occasions and given as gifts. Elaborate forms and designs evolved: for example, a series of delftware examples spanning the period 1631 to 1744 survive, as do several lead glass versions by the glassmaker George Ravenscoft (1632-81). At the end of the 17th century delftware, Staffordshire slipware and glass posset pots became large and highly decorated, indicating a high point in their ceremonial function which, by the middle of the 18th century, seems to have fallen into disuse.

Physical description

Posset pot with cover, tin-glazed earthenware, buff coloured body and a dull white, heavily crazed. The lid is whiter, uncrazed with pink patches, particularly on the underside. The base unglazed except for small patch of white glaze, slightly concave, without foot-rim. Geometric decoration, birds on rocks, flowers and insects in blue. The right handle and upper part of spout restored. Handles of oval section with sharp ridge on outside. (Alphabetic shape codes as used in appendix to Archer. Delftware. 1997)

Place of Origin

Montague Close, England (possibly, made)
Pickleherring, England (possibly, made)

Date

1630-1635 (made)

Artist/maker

Unknown (production)

Materials and Techniques

Tin-glazed earthenware, painted

Dimensions

Height: 19.7 cm, Width: 22.2 cm including handles, Depth: 18 cm including spout
[Cover] Diameter: 16.7 cm

Object history note

Mr P. Hickey, Dublin. Purchased from Mr R.J. Charleston, Victoria and Albert Museum, London, 1972.
Made in London, at the Southwark, Montague Close or Pickleherring potteries

Descriptive line

Posset pot with cover, tin-glazed earthenware, painted decoration of birds, rocks and flowers, London (Southwark, Montague Close, or Pickleherring), ca. 1630-1635.

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

Archer, Michael. Delftware: the tin-glazed earthenware of the British Isles. A catalogue of the collection in the Victoria and Albert Museum. London: HMSO, in association with the Victoria and Albert Museum, 1997. ISBN 0 11 290499 8

Labels and date

British Galleries:
Possets were warm nutritious drinks, often given to women to build their strength after giving birth. They were made from milk, beaten with eggs, sugar and spices and curdled with ale or sherry. They were drunk from distinctive pots, with a spout which functioned as a straw and decorated posset pots were sometimes given as presents. [27/03/2003]

Techniques

Glazed

Subjects depicted

Floral patterns; Birds; Geometric patterns; Rock; Insect

Categories

Containers; Ceramics; British Galleries; Drinking; Earthenware; Delftware

Collection code

CER

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Qr_O20991
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