Albarello drug jar for Billy Goat's Fat, Italy, 1571-1630

1571-1630 in Italy

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Left hand side - A633767, Dumbell albarello, majolica, with biblical scene, used for unknown drug, Italian, perhaps
Science Museum Group Collection
© The Board of Trustees of the Science Museum

Dumbell albarello, majolica, with biblical scene, used for billy goat's fat, Italian, perhaps 1571-1630

The illustrated scene on the left shows an event from the Old Testament of the Bible, that of Joseph’s jealous brothers lowering him into a well after stripping him of his coat.

The other inscription records the name of the jar’s contents – “Billy Goat’s Fat”. Animal fats were used as a common base for a number of ointments. Each animal was credited with special properties. Billy goat’s fat, when mixed with other ingredients, was used for deafness, epilepsy, coughs, scorpion stings (when used with butter) and cracks and cuts of the mouth and nose. It was believed to be an effective sun-cream. The jar was bequeathed by British laryngologist Sir St Clair Thomson (1856-1943) to the Royal College of Surgeons in London before being donated to the Wellcome collections. It is shown here with a similar biblically illustrated jar (A643260).

Related people


Medical Ceramic-ware
Object Number:
drug jar
  • furnishing and equipment
  • container - receptacle
Thomson, St.C.

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