Storage jar used for Fumitory Water, Italy, 1640-1660

Made:
1640-1660 in Deruta

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Science Museum Group Collection
© The Board of Trustees of the Science Museum

Science Museum Group
© The Board of Trustees of the Science Museum

Syrup jug, Italian, fine example from Deruta, mid c17, polychrome maiolica, used for earth smoke water

The inscription painted on the side of this earthenware jar translates from Latin as “Smoke Water”. In this preparation, the dried herb, fumitory, is infused with water and drunk to cleanse the humours, which were thought to cause blockages in the body if unbalanced. Such blockages were believed to trigger a range of health problems, including leprosy, fevers, itches and skin conditions. When taken with the expensive and elaborate preparation theriac, the water was considered to be useful against plague.

The handle of the jar is a snake entwined around a rod, a symbol traditionally associated with Asklepios, the Greek and Roman god of healing and medicine.

Details

Category:
Medical Ceramic-ware
Collection:
Sir Henry Wellcome's Museum Collection
Object Number:
A17900
type:
storage jar
taxonomy:
  • furnishing and equipment
  • container - receptacle
  • storage vessel