Albarello, polychrome earthenware, used for gum lacca, Italian, early 18th century
‘Lacc’ is short for Gum Lacca, a resin secreted by insects living on certain trees, although for a long time it was thought to be from the trees themselves. Lacc was prepared by apothecaries and pharmacists who added the powdered version into a boiled mixture of water and plant roots until the solution was a blood red colour and as thick as honey. It could then be formed into lozenges.
Lacc was used to purge the watery humours that were believed to gather in the chest and so cause dropsy. Lacc was also used to break up stones in the bladder and relieve the symptoms of scurvy and jaundice.