Albarello drug jar, Sicily, 1640
The decoration on the albarello jar shows a bearded Moor wearing a turban. Moors were Muslims from north-west Africa who conquered Spain in the 700s. The proximity of Sicily to the north African coast probably accounts for this particular design. Albarello vases, with their characteristic hourglass shape and multicoloured decoration, originated in Persia. This shape was developed so that many jars could be put on one shelf yet each still be safely removed by grasping it around the middle. This jar shows bubbling of the surface caused by re-firing the pottery to fix the glaze to the clay.
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Glossary: drug jar
A (usually earthenware) container designed to hold apothecaries' ointments and dry drugs.
The preparation and medicinal dispensing of drugs.
A form of jar, typically from Medieval Spain, used for storing drugs. The word ‘albarello’ is of Spanish origin but historians appear divided over whether or not the design of the jar originated in Spain, Morocco or China. The shape of the waisted jar is distinctive.