Castelli maiolica syrup-jar of 'Orsini-Colonna' type, attributed to the workshop of Orazio Pompei

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Castelli, ltaly
C. 1545-55
Lead-glazed earthenware
27.7 cm

J.M. Musacchio, Marvels of Maiolica. Italian Renaissance Ceramics from the Corcoran Gallery of Art Collection, Charlestown 2004, pp. 42 - 48.
Marco Ricci (ed.), Le Maioliche Cinquecentsche Di Castelli, Brescia 1989, pp. 152 - 159.

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This exceptional and colourful maiolica syrup jug is attributed to the workshop of Orazio Pompei. The baluster-shaped jug has a yellow, scaled spout, with a dragon's head. The dragon's scales are decorated with repetitive blue and green patterns. The spout is connected to the jug and the opening of the spout comes out of the dragon's mouth. The spout is connected to the jug and the mouth of the spout comes out of the dragon's mouth. The jug is painted on both sides with an en profile portrait of a man on a blue and yellow background. Both men, one with beard, moustache and hair, the other with only a moustache and short hair, are wearing green garments decorated with floral motifs. Above the portraits are blue leaves on an orange background, trimmed with a green border. These colours are repeated in the multi-leafed flower around the joint between the spout and the jug. The upper rim of the jug is decorated with white rings on a blue background. The white back of the jug is painted with blue tendrils. The handle, wide and curved at the bottom, is decorated in the same blue with crosses and stripes. Below the portraits and spout is a yellow-bordered label with the text 'OXIZACCARA'. This indicates that the jug held oxysaccharum, a supposedly healing syrup made from sugar, vinegar and pomegranate juice. The jug is made of maiolica: earthenware covered with an opaque white layer of tin-glaze, decorated with coloured images and shapes.

In the Italian Renaissance, jugs like this one were used for storing medicinal herbs, ointments, mixtures and syrups. In the shop of the sixteenth-century apothecary, the walls were filled with shelves on which these lavish and colourful jugs and pots were displayed. The contents of the pot or jug were clearly marked on the pottery. They were made in a number of standard shapes so that they fitted next to each other on the shelves. Besides jugs with spouts, spices and mixtures were also stored in albarelli with a flanged opening, which could easily be closed with a cloth or lid. The pharmacist often created the mixtures to order and had, sometimes more than a hundred, different pots in various sizes in which he kept his stock. Jugs with spouts were, according to the inscriptions, often used for storing syrups, oil or honey. The maiolica was made in sets, the size depending on the intended use.  

The syrup jug is part of the Orsini-Colonna group, a large and distinct group of maiolica jugs, albarelli and vessels made in the workshop of Orazio Pompei in Castelli. This maiolica group is decorated in a distinctive, colourful style, and many of the objects have double portraits on either side. The Orsini-Colonna group is named after a jug, now in the British Museum (inv. no. 1852,1129.2), depicting the reunion of the Orsini and Colonna families. The jug shows a bear (the Orsini family) embracing a column (the Colonna family), with the motto 'et sarrimo boni amici' (and we will be good friends) underneath. Maiolica in the same style was then described as the Orsini-Colonna type.  Archaeological findings in Castelli in the 1980s linked the Orsini-Colonna group to the workshop of Orazio Pompei (1516 - 1590-1596). The workshop probably produced several sets of maiolica for different commissioners, using a limited and recurrent colour palette, in which many of the same figurative patterns and designs were used.


Comparable jars:

The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York (inv. no. 41.190.72)

The Walters Art Museum, Baltimore (inv. no. 48.1488)

Victoria & Albert Museum, Londen (inv. no. c.80-1944)

National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne (inv. no. 600-D2)

Philadelphia Museum of Art (inv. no. 2011-186-1)

Wallace Collection, Londen (inv. no. C51)







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