Not currently on display at the V&A

Water Vessel

17th century (made)
Place of origin

Water vessel (Búcaro), one of a pair. Red earthenware, with small mouth, the body indented and tapering down into a thin stem with expanded foot.

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read Let them eat clay: Mexican búcaros ceramics When it comes to food and drink, ceramics are usually reserved for tableware. However in the 17th century, Mexican búcaros – highly-polished earthenware pots made of fragrant red clay – served as both a container for water and food itself.

Object details

Object type
This object consists of 2 parts.

  • Water Vessel
  • Covers (Closures)
Materials and techniques
Red earthenware, burnished
Brief description
Water vessel (Búcaro), red earthenware, Tonalá, Mexico, 17th century
Physical description
Water vessel (Búcaro), one of a pair. Red earthenware, with small mouth, the body indented and tapering down into a thin stem with expanded foot.
  • Height: 35cm
  • Max. width: 19.5cm
Object history
One of a pair with 286A-1872. Bought from Señor Riano, Madrid for £1 5s. for the pair.
Historical context
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.
Accession number

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Record createdJuly 27, 2010
Record URL
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