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Pilgrim bottle

  • Place of origin:

    Urbino, Italy (made)

  • Date:

    ca. 1560-1580 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Fontana Workshop (probably, maker)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Maiolica (tin-glazed earthenware)

  • Museum number:

    8409&A-1863

  • Gallery location:

    British Galleries, room 122g, case 2

Object Type
Pilgrims used to carry drinking water in flattened globular containers made from leather or dried gourds, hung from a belt. In the 16th century this shape was adapted for highly decorative decanting bottles for wine, made from silver or ceramics. In Renaissance Italy pilgrim bottles became a standard feature of extended ceramic dinner services used by the nobility for display and use on special occasions.

Materials & Making
Tin-glazed earthenware, which could be painted in many different bright colours, was known in Italy as 'maiolica'. Urbino was a famous centre for its manufacture.

Design & Designing
During the 1560s and 1570s the Fontana workshop in Urbino specialised in maiolica with 'grotesque' decoration on a white ground. This type of decoration, composed of small loosely connected motifs including human figures, animals and fantasy figures, was first introduced by the painter Raphael in his decoration of the Vatican Palace in Rome (1518-19). It was derived from ancient Roman decorations from the Golden House of the emperor Nero (ruled 54-68 AD) on the Esquiline hill in Rome, which came to light during this period. These motifs were made popular though printed editions such as Jacques Androuet I Ducerceau's 'Petites Grotesques', which were published in 1550, and again in 1562. Many objects attributed to the Fontana workshops have grotesques which are directly derived from this printed source and it is extremely likely that the Fonatana family owned a copy of this work.
Grotesque motifs are also translated in the moulded masks with snake-like tails on the sides of the bottle.

Physical description

Pilgrim bottle and cover; with two handles in the form of a moulded satyr's mask, connected to moulded scrolls on either side of the body. On each is a medallion amongst grotesques on a white ground, consisting of birds, semi-human monsters and dolphins. The medallions are painted in black on an orange ground to imitate cameos, in one case with Bacchus standing with a wine-cup and an urn in his hands, in the other with a satyr holding a wine branch.

Place of Origin

Urbino, Italy (made)

Date

ca. 1560-1580 (made)

Artist/maker

Fontana Workshop (probably, maker)

Materials and Techniques

Maiolica (tin-glazed earthenware)

Dimensions

Height: 45 cm, Width: 29 cm, Depth: 20 cm

Object history note

Made in Italy, Urbino, probably at the Fontana workshop. Purchased from the Soulages Collection, which had been displayed at Marlborough House.

Historical context note

Pilgrims used to carry drinking water in flattened globular containers made from leather or dried gourds, hung from a belt. In the 16th century this shape was adapted for highly decorative decanting bottles for wine, made in silver or ceramics. In Renaissance Italy pilgrim bottles became a standard feature of extended ceramic dinner services used by the nobility for display and use on special occasions.

Descriptive line

Pilgrim bottle and stopper, tin-glazed earthenware with grotesque decoration

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

Poke, C., 'Jacques Androuet I Ducerceau's 'Petites Grotesques' as a source for Urbino maiolica decoration', The Burlington Magazine, June 2001, pp. 333-343
Discusses the print-sources for grotesque ornament available to the Urbino potters of the 16th century.
Hunt, Tristram & Whitfield, Victoria. Art Treasures in Manchester: 150 years on. Manchester: Philip Wilson Publishers, 2007. 35p., ill ISBN 9780901673725

Exhibition History

Masterpieces of Italian Renaissance Maiolica (V&A 22/09/2012-06/05/2013)
Art Treasures in Manchester: 150 years on (Manchester Art Gallery 06/10/2007-27/01/2008)

Labels and date

British Galleries:
OBJECTS FROM THE MUSEUM'S EARLY COLLECTIONS

From about 1840 a collection of objects was formed for the Government School of Design. It was later expanded with objects purchased from the Great Exhibition. All had been selected for their appropriate use of materials, excellent workmanship or well-designed decoration. A new museum was established and rooms were provided for it at Marlborough House, London, where it was to be available to students, manufacturers and the general public to study. [27/03/2003]

Materials

Tin-glazed earthenware

Subjects depicted

Birds; Medallions; Grotesques; Cameos; Monsters

Categories

Ceramics; Majolica

Collection code

CER

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