Syrup jar used to store Oil of Violets, Italy, 1701-1730

1701-1730 in Italy

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Science Museum Group Collection
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Tin-glazed earthenware drug jar, polychrome decoration on white ground, labelled "OL. VIOLATUM", oil of violets,, possibly Catelli or Naples, Italian, early 18th century

The inscription painted onto the side of the jar tells us the original contents of the jar. Oleum Violatum is Latin for ‘ “Oil of Violets”. This syrup was made by infusing 4 lb (4.48 kg) of violets in 16 oz (1.8 kg) of olive oil for eight days in the sun and then straining them. This process was repeated three times and the concentrated oil was then stored for use in the jar. During the process the oil would be strongly infused with both the colour and scent of violets.

The principal uses of oil of violets were soothing inflammation and combating pleurisy. The oil may also have been rubbed on to the skin or added to other ingredients.


Medical Ceramic-ware
Object Number:
syrup jar
  • furnishing and equipment
  • container - receptacle
  • drug jar

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