Pair of pharmacy storage jars, Naples, Italy, 1756

1756 in Naples
P Criscuolo

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Science Museum Group Collection
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Pair of storage vases, made by P. Criscuolo at Castelli in 1756, decorated with scenes of Death of Absalom and St Peter's escape from prison, tin-glazed earthenware

These earthenware jars are illustrated with scenes from both the Old and New Testaments of the Bible.

The Old Testament scene is the Death of Absalom. Absalom, who rebelled against his father, King David, was suspended by his hair from an oak tree and impaled with a spear by Joab (Book of Samuel II 18: 9-15). The jar contained Scurvy grass water, which was used for opening up obstructions in the body. It was also used for combating scurvy, a vitamin C deficiency that causes the gums to bleed and sores to open up on the face.

The New Testament scene depicted on the second jar shows St Peter’s escape from prison after being released by an angel of the Lord while the Roman guards slept. Peter had been arrested for being a Christian (Acts 12: 5-9). The jar contained Buckthorn Water, which was used to purge the body but left the patient with a hard-to-quench thirst.


Medical Ceramic-ware
Object Number:
storage vase
  • furnishing and equipment
  • container - receptacle
  • vessel
Knight, Frank & Rutley