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The maiolica pharmacy jug is decorated with an orange, blue, and green plant ornament. It is worth noting the unusual handle – parallel (not perpendicular) to the jug’s body – thanks to which it was possible to lift and carry such a large and heavy vessel using a lowered hand. Under the handle, there is a mascaron head, resembling that of a lion.

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The maiolica pharmacy jug is decorated with an orange, blue, and green plant ornament. It is worth noting the unusual handle – parallel (not perpendicular) to the jug’s body – thanks to which it was possible to lift and carry such a large and heavy vessel using a lowered hand. Under the handle, there is a mascaron head, resembling that of a lion. In the front, above the name of the drug, there is a half-moon and a star, indicating Mauritanian connections (Maiolica vessels were created under the influence of Mauritanian-Spanish ceramics, imported to Italy through Majorca [hence the name]). What was stored in the vessel? According to the inscription on the ribbon, it was A [QUA] DI CARDO – blessed thistle water – that is, a water distillation of a cnicus. The plant (Cnicus benedictus in Latin) was known in the past as Carduus sanctus – “holy thistle“ – due to the numerous healing properties attributed to it, especially in the period from the sixteenth to the eighteenth century: “it removes every headache, strengthens memory, strengthens the brain and eyes, (...) cleanses the stomach, activates appetite, enlarges breasts, takes away a stomach-ache, (...) crushes the kidney stone, destroys pimples in a can cumbering the wind, (...) it is also helpful against uterus wringing, also will please the heart”[1].

The vessel, from a collection of pharmacy ceramics, was donated to the museum by the Master of Pharmacy, Mateusz Bronisław Grabowski, from London in 1976.

Elaborated by the Museum of Pharmacy at the Jagiellonian University Medical College in Kraków, © all rights reserved

[1] M. Siennik, Herbarz, Kraków 1568, p. 543.

 

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Miss Pharmacist and pharmacy rooms at manor courts

All the medications that nowadays fill the surface of the drawer, formerly occupied an entire room. At the manors, these “first aid kits” contained natural ingredients, spices, liqueurs, vodkas, home-made brews and preserves.

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All the medications that nowadays fill the surface of the drawer, formerly occupied an entire room. At the manors, these “first aid kits” contained natural ingredients, spices, liqueurs, vodkas, home-made brews and preserves. Zygmunt Gloger, analysing the contents of the pharmacy rooms in the Old Polish Encyclopaedia , wrote:
“What – there was no rural pharmacy: the fat of various animals as medicines, dry reptiles, several dozen species of dried herbs, starting from linden flower, chamomile and mint, and ending with various dried fruits and rootlets. We did not forget about the March water from melted snow, which was thought to maintain a beautiful complexion for the fairer sex, and about rose water, which was sprinkled on the floor to lend rooms a pleasant aroma. Water for washing the face was also prepared from cucumbers. Only homemade vinegars were used: raspberry, relish, spinach, currant, barberry etc.”.
A well-stocked first-aid kit was particularly important in places far from the town, where the medic could not reach quickly enough.
Completing and supplementing its content was the housekeeper’s duty. Often, in the manors, the first aid kit was prepared by Mrs. Pharmacist – a poor relative who had no family of her own (this term even became a synonym for an old maid). As Glogger wrote:
“She had everything under her key, she kept everything and watched over the supply with everything, sometimes walking alone with the village girls to collect herbs”.
She was the one who gave first aid in emergency situations not only to the residents of the manor, but also to the surrounding villages.
The atmosphere of an old pharmacy, not only domestic ones, can be enjoyed while visiting the Museum of Pharmacy in Krakow, where an old herb dryer was restored in the attic.

We can find out how varied first-aid kits once were by browsing “the Tibetan Pharmacy” – a manuscript and a set of medicines.

Elaborated by: Editorial Team of Malopolskas Virtual Museums,
Licencja Creative Commons

 This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Poland License.

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“White gold” – concerning the beginnings of European porcelain

Chinese and Japanese porcelain was once an extremely valuable and desirable product in Europe, which was already being imported in the Middle Ages. It was called “white gold”, because it commanded value comparable to this precious metal and was often used as its substitute (e.g. as a gift). At that time, porcelain was viewed as a synonym of luxury and its possession testified to the splendour of the house; only the wealthiest people—mainly royalty—could afford it. In the modern era—in connection with the fashion for Orientalism—porcelain gained such great popularity, that a great effort was made to discover how it was manufactured: one of the most guarded secrets of the East.

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Chinese and Japanese porcelain was once an extremely valuable and desirable product in Europe, which was already being imported in the Middle Ages. It was called “white gold”, because it commanded value comparable to this precious metal and was often used as its substitute (e.g. as a gift). At that time, porcelain was viewed as a synonym of luxury and its possession testified to the splendour of the house; only the wealthiest people—mainly royalty—could afford it.
Porcelain is the finest type of ceramics. The formula of its manufacture was developed in China as early as the 7th century. In the modern era—in connection with the fashion for Orientalism—porcelain gained such great popularity, that a great effort was made to discover how it was manufactured: one of the most guarded secrets of the East. Initially, half-measures were used to obtain faience: a type of ceramics differing from the mineral composition of porcelain clay, but bearing the closest resemblance to it after firing. Through the use of a similar form, and characteristic cobalt under-glaze decorations on a white background, producers attempted to give it the appearance of original Chinese porcelain. The second half of the 17th and the first half of the 18th centuries was the period in which the greatest number of porcelain imitations were manufactured in Europe. 
The first product of this kind was the so-called Medici porcelain, which was made in Florence in the 16th century. However, these vessels had an original form and resembled Chinese porcelain only in its colour scheme. Around 1600, in the French city of Nevers, the production of faience in the Italian tradition began, which—due to the then contemporary fashion trends—adopted the Chinese cobalt-white colour palette and stylistics in the middle of the 17th century. The history of the famous Delft faience—also produced since the beginning of the 17th century—was similar. At the beginning of the factory's operation, a characteristic collection of decorative motifs was developed, depicting landscapes or genre scenes, most often cobalt patterns on a white background (patterns of Dutch ceramics recognizable to the present day). In line with the increasing fashion for Chinese products in the second half of the century, Delft faience stared to resemble such products through the shape of its vessels and decorations, modelled on those from the Far East, although still retaining local features. In the following decades, the trend for this type of product resulted in the establishment of other production facilities of porcelain imitations, which vied with one another in the field of ideas for production techniques and designs of crockery.
The real breakthrough was the invention of a technique for making European porcelain by Ehrenfried Walther von Tschirnhaus in 1708. Von Tschirnhaus's research was continued by his collaborator, Johann Friedrich Böttger ( an alchemist who, before embarking on the research into the production of the "white gold", had conducted experiments on transmutating other metals into gold). In 1710, under Böttger's supervision, porcelain production commenced in the first European factory founded by Augustus II the Strong—Kursächsische Manufaktur—at the Albrechtsburg castle in Meissen. Saxon (or Meissen) porcelain was met with great appreciation from the very beginning and has been since produced almost continuously to the present day.

See also:
Chinese porcelain salt shaker
“Hydria” apothecary vase
Teapot with lid
Porcelain vase with a wooden base

Elaborated by Paulina Kluz (Editorial Team of Malopolska’s Virtual Museums),
Licencja Creative Commons

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Poland License.

Bibliography:
Ludwig Danckwert, Leksykon porcelany europejskiej, tłum. Agata Bobkiewicz, Barbara Bukowska, Roman Warszewski, Gdańsk 2008;
Słownik terminologiczny sztuk pięknych, red. Krystyna Kubalska-Sulkiewicz, Warszawa 1996.

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Majolica apothecary vessel

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