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Archaic majolica albarelli...?
I've been looking into 15th Century Italian pharmacies over the last few
days, and the barrels seem (to my eyes, anyway) to look a lot like what's
called archaic majolica albarelli.
Majolica was a term used for (usually) tin-glazed earthenware, originally
produced in Spain and imported into Italy via Majorca (hence "majolica").
However, it was later produced at a number of sites in Italy, most notably
in an area north of Florence.
Alborelli were a type of container used for storing drugs, often made
specifically for pharmacies.
At the start of the 15th century, majolica was fairly crude: kilns could
only control manganese (blue) glazes, so decoration was limited to blue.
Also: they were generally executed in a "severe style" - lots of geometric
and schematic decoration, often based on Islamic designs. This is generally
known as "archaic majolica".
But by the last few decades of the century, majolica started to become
intensely decorated with historical scenes, in a style known as
"istoriato", which subsequently peaked in 1530.
So: I think that we can confirm our dating for the VMS fairly well, purely
on the basis of the "barrel" illustrations - they're pre-"istoriato", but
they're not totally simple either. Based on this, my uneducated guess is
1450-1480: but I've contacted the Majolica Society to see if one of their
experts can date it much more definitively than this.
Cheers, .....Nick Pelling.....
PS: IIRC, most pre-Renaissance earthenware was destroyed because of the
belief that it could transmit disease (ie, plague etc), so actual examples
are quite rare.