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Archaic majolica albarelli...?

Hi everyone,

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.