German Brown Saltglaze Stoneware Crucifixion ‘Bartmannkrug’ with Oak Leaves and Acorns

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16.5 cm
14 cm

Christel van Hees, Baardmannen en puntneuzen. Vorm, gebruik en betekenis van gezichtskruiken 1500-1700, Zwolle 2002.
A. Bruijn en J.G.N. Renaud, In kannen en kruiken: Nederlands gebruiksaardewerk van de 11e tot de 16e eeuw, Rotterdam 1963.
W.F. Renaud, H.J.E. van Beuningen, Verdraaid goed gedraaid: verzameling H.J.E. van Beuningen, Rotterdam 1973, pp. 38-43.  
Ekkart Klinge, Duits steengoed/ German stoneware, Rijksmuseum Amsterdam/ Waanders Zwolle, 1996, pp. 10-23 en 44-57.
John G. Hurst, David S. Neal, H.J.E. van Beuningen, with contrib. by Ann Clark, Pottery produced and traded in north-west Europe 1350-1650, Rotterdam Papers VI, A contribution to medieval archeology, Rotterdam 1986, pp. 208-221.
Heinrich Hellebrandt, Otto Eugen Mayer, Raerener Steinzeug; 15 Jahre Grabungen im Raerener Land, Aken 1967, pp. 9-29.
Ingeborg Unger, Die Kunst des deutschen Steinzeugs: Collection Karl und Petra Amendt und der Krefelder Kunstmuseen, Krefeld 2013, pp. 34-65.
Konrad Strauss, Frieder Aichele, Steinzeug / Battenberg Antiquitäten-Kataloge, Battenberg 1980, pp. 50-59.
Gisela Reineking-von Bock, Steinzeug, Kataloge des Kunstgewerbemuseums Köln; vol. 4, Keulen 1986, pp. 225-257.


Private collection B. Overduin, Bloemendaal/ Spain.

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This Bartmann-type or beardman jug, with its characteristically grey body covered in a light brown slip, is made in Cologne, circa 1525-1550. The neck is moulded with the characteristic bearded mask, the body is finely decorated in relief with Christ crucified and branches with oak leaves and acorns. The top has a hinged domed pewter cover with a loop thumbpiece.

This beautiful design of acorns and oak leaves on trailing stems is thought to represent the tree of Jesse, which refers to the ancestral lineage of Jesus Christ. Biblical and other religious motives frequently appeared on these drinking vessels, as spirituality based on biblical ideas was a major factor in the Middle Ages and present in most aspects of life. Later, in the eventful period of the 16th and early 17th centuries, pottery was frequently used as a medium to transport religious meanings and belief and it is known that Rhenish stoneware was sometimes especially used to promote ideas of the Lutheran reformation.

The bearded man jug was most likely used for the consumption of alcoholic beverages. Taking medieval drinking habits into consideration, it is highly probable that these beverages were beer or (perhaps) wine rather than water, juice or milk. Like the present beardman jug, jugs from the first half of the sixteenth century typically have a wide neck and are relatively small in size, making these pitchers suitable for drinking immediately. Because they were tableware they were luxurious and richly decorated. The bearded jugs from later times, at the end of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, are not too small, have a narrow neck and are well suited as a stock jar.

Bartmann or bearded man (also known as Brown Frechen or Bellarmine) are most well-known for the distinctive feature of a bearded figure on the neck of the jugs. The jugs were in great demand in Europe since the middle ages. They were made in Germany from 1500-1770, originally produced in Cologne but shortly after in more places in the Rhineland, notably Cologne, Frechen, Langerwehe, Raeren and Westerwald. The natural circumstances in these areas were excellent for the pottery industry, especially the type of fine, clean clay. In the high temperature needed to fire the stoneware pottery, the elements of this clay ‘melted’ together, making the fabric stone hard and completely watertight. Such stoneware was therefore excellently suited as a container or tableware for liquids. The stoneware vessels were relief-decorated with bearded face-masks in combination with various other decorations, such as floral elements, medallions or even aphoristic slogans.

The rich relief decorations on this bearded man jug were made with help of ceramic moulds. The thin clay slice decorations resulting from the moulds would be attached to the neck or belly of the jug with the help of clay paste, after which it was baked. At about as early as the end of the 15th century, the use of moulds allowed various pottery workshops in towns in the Rhine-area to produce quite detailed and elaborated decorations in a standardized matter on products that were mass-produced in large workshops. The motifs used by potters can sometimes be traced back to prints or to examples in other materials. Prints originally intended as examples for goldsmithing have also been used by potters as models for their stoneware products.

Because the bearded man jug was a relatively new product in the first half of the sixteenth century, it was initially mainly used by households from a higher social class, such as the well-off urban middle class. In later times, pitchers seem to end up in simpler environments. Besides its appearance its status had also changed: from a luxurious, richly decorated table jug to a simply decorated storage jug that mainly has a place in simple households. The jug can initially be found on the table, then degrades to the ground and then ends up in the cellar, pantry or ship's hold.

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