Puzzle Jug thumbnail 1
Puzzle Jug thumbnail 2
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Image of Gallery in South Kensington
On display at V&A South Kensington
Medieval & Renaissance, Room 62A, Discover the Renaissance World

Puzzle Jug

1515-1525 (made)
Artist/Maker
Place Of Origin

Puzzle-cups were designed to frustrate the user or to challenge them to drink the contents without getting soaked. Tableware designed to accompany drinking related games increased in popularity during the 16th century. The writer Cipriano Piccolpasso described these types of drinking cups as 'unruly vessels'. Drinking and humour were closely related. The bowl of this example has a central column which connects with six spouts that project from the rim. The cup also has two handles, one of which is incomplete. Other examples of puzzle-cups survive, many of which must have been impossible to drink from.


object details
Categories
Object Type
Materials and Techniques
Glazed earthenware
Brief Description
Ceramic puzzle-cup in the form of a bowl with six spouts
Physical Description
The bowl has a central column which communicates with six spouts that project from the rim. There are two reeded handles, one of which is no longer complete. On the top of the column, in a medallion, is a painting of a water-bird. Round the sides of the bowl, both inside and out, are palmette-like sprays of formal flowers and berries. There is a quatrefoil at the point where each spout springs from the rim.
Dimensions
  • Height: 7.6cm
  • Weight: 0.72kg
  • Diameter: 23.2cm
Measured for the Medieval and Renaissance Galleries
Style
Gallery Label
Label in Room 135, Case W1. Transcribed 21-11-2006 Puzzle-cup, earthenware Italian (DERUTA), about 1515-20 Salting Bequest Cat No. 466 C.1295-1910
Credit line
Bequeathed by George Salting, Esq.
Historical context
Tableware designed to accompany drinking related games gained popularity in the 16th century. The 16th century writer Cipriano Piccolpasso called these types of drinking cups as 'unruly vessels'. Della Casa's Galateo (1558) discussed drinking competitions and their occurrence in antiquity. Drinking and humour were closely related. A song in a northern Italian treatise refers to drinking games that were played on St Martin's day. Dice were used to decide how many drinks each of the participants should have and the order in which the individual drank.



Puzzle-cups (tazze da inganno) were designed to frustrate or challenge the user to drink the contents without getting soaked. Other examples of puzzle-cups do survive and indicate that these vessels came in a variety of shapes. Many of these must have been almost impossible to drink from. Several bear coats-of-arms which confirm that these types of objects were also owned and used by the more elite levels of society.
Subjects depicted
Summary
Puzzle-cups were designed to frustrate the user or to challenge them to drink the contents without getting soaked. Tableware designed to accompany drinking related games increased in popularity during the 16th century. The writer Cipriano Piccolpasso described these types of drinking cups as 'unruly vessels'. Drinking and humour were closely related. The bowl of this example has a central column which connects with six spouts that project from the rim. The cup also has two handles, one of which is incomplete. Other examples of puzzle-cups survive, many of which must have been impossible to drink from.
Bibliographic References
  • Bernard Rackham, Catalogue of Italian Maiolica Volume I (London, HMSO 1977), p156
  • Bernard Rackham, Catalogue of Italian Maiolica Volume II (London, HMSO 1977), Plate 73
  • Marta Ajmar-Wollheim and Flora Dennis, At Home in Renaissance Italy (London, V&A Publications 2006, pp212-214
  • Giovanni Della Casa, Galateo ed G. Manganelly and C. Milanini (Milan, 1997), p133
  • Cipriano Piccolpasso, Li tre libri dell'arte del vasaio, National Art Library, London MS MSL 1861 7446, f.6v.
  • Object Information File
Collection
Accession Number
C.2195-1910

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record createdNovember 4, 2002
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