Description An "albarello" is a cylindrical maiolica jar that was originally used to hold medicines and dry drugs by an apothecary or pharmacist. The design originated in Iran or Syria and was introduced in Europe by North African craftsmen working in Spain. This example belongs to a larger group of wares with predominantly erotic motifs that have the initial "B" or "B°" on the back. The letter most likely refers to the workshop where the jars were made, but it could also refer a single patron who commissioned the group. Sexual and fertility imagery appear frequently on Renaissance objects made for private use. Especially with the high mortality rate of the time (bubonic plague being only one of the problems) fertility practices persisted in the Christian Middle Ages and the frequently erotic subject of the loves of the pagan gods became increasingly popular on all kinds of privately commissioned objects. Idealized and nearly-nude painted figures of young men and women were occasionally depicted on the undersides of the lids of cassoni (wedding chests) to stimulate fertility in upper class marriages. For more on maiolica, see 48.1336
- Art and Love in Renaissance Italy. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; Kimbell Art Museum, Fort Worth. 2008-2009.
Provenance Sir Edgar and Lady Speyer, London; Walters Art Museum, 1961, by purchase.
Inscriptions [Transcription] On the side, in black: B°; [Inscription] On the bottom: 2/5
Credit Museum purchase, 1961
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