Albarello vase, Italian, C18 polychrome maidica, with portrait of elephant
Drug jars were sometimes decorated with unusual scenes. Elephants were a common feature at royal zoos, but were still considered very exotic and unusual and were clearly the inspiration for the illustration.
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 type of decorated pottery is known as maiolica (or majolica) and is believed to be named after the island of Majorca, where the finest pots of this type were said to be made.