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A hydria type apothecary vase. Majolica. Savona (Italy). The 2nd half of the 17th century. Handles in the shape of (fantastic) animal heads on massive bent necks. In the front, at the bottom, there is a relief of a gargoyle. In its mouth there is an opening to pour out the content of the vase, plugged with a standard cork. There are smaller gargoyles without openings on the sides of the vessel, under the handles.

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A hydria type apothecary vase. Majolica. Savona (Italy). The 2nd half of the 17th century. Handles in the shape of (fantastic) animal heads on massive bent necks. In the front, at the bottom, there is a relief of a gargoyle. In its mouth there is an opening to pour out the content of the vase, plugged with a standard cork. There are smaller gargoyles without openings on the sides of the vessel, under the handles. The decoration in the front, under the inscription, presents a human figure holding a two-headed dragon on a rope. The decoration behind it depicts a centaur slaying a dragon. Colours: various shades of blue. Writing on the banderole: Aquæ. Plantag:s (Aquæ Plantaginis). Aqua Plantaginis is a water distillate from the leaves of a Plantago major L. plant... “Plantago water is good for wounds, and because it is pungent, it is also good for any diarrhoea, especially if one has wounds in his bowels. It should be drunk often and administered with an enema. This opens the clogged liver and spleen, cools the blood from inflammation and allows healthy body to grow over fistulas, as it has the property of making body tissue grow, especially in old wounds. It stops excessive bleeding of haemorrhoids if one washes his rectum, that is, the end of the bowel, with it. It also stops toothaches if one washes his mouth with it.” (Marcin Siennik, Herbarz [Herbarium], Kraków, 1568, p. 235). The vase has a distinguishable base, a bulging belly turning into a neck in the upper part, which ends with a wide flange. Two handles in the shape of fantastic animal heads on S-shaped massive fluted necks. There is a cobalt figurative and floral decoration throughout the surface of the vessel. On the belly of the vase there is a pharmaceutical description: Aquae Plantag.s (Aquae Plantaginis), which is a water distillate of Plantago lanceolata L. or Plantago major L. called “Plantago water”. The vessel is signed.
The exhibit from the collection of apothecary 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

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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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On bizarre therapies, dangerous medications and opium-laced baby dummies

Medicine and pharmacy have not always been what they are today. The history of pharmacy and medicine is not only the history of the progress of science, marked by subsequent great discoveries but also a fascinating story about therapies and medications from the past that nobody would dare to try today...

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Wooden apothecary boxes from 18th century, The Museum of Pharmacy at the Jagiellonian University Medical College in Kraków, public domain.

On the 26th of September, it’s Pharmacist’s Day in Poland. On this day, we wish all pharmacists and chemists all the very best! We would also like to remind you that at the Malopolska’s Virtual Museums we present 24 exceptionally interesting objects from the collection of Muzeum Farmacji Collegium Medicum UJ w Krakowie (the Pharmacy Museum of the Jagiellonian University Medical College).

For those who, after they have seen the MVM’s (Małopolska’s Virtual Museums) collections, want to learn even more about the history of medicine, we are eager to assure you that as part of the currently implemented project Wirtualna Małopolska (2016-2020) (Virtual Lesser Poland (2016–2020)) our website will obtain a much larger collection of exhibits from the Pharmacy Museum of the JUMC. We encourage those who cannot wait to visit the Museum at 25 Floriańska Street – the interiors and atmosphere of an 18th-century pharmacy recreated there serve to leave an enduring impression.

Medicine and pharmacy have not always been what they are today. The history of pharmacy and medicine is not only the history of the progress of science, marked by subsequent great discoveries but also a fascinating story about therapies and medications from the past that nobody would dare to try today – either out of common sense or because some the substances used in the past are now illegal (even if the effects of their use may seem quite pleasant to some). The history of healing is also a story about the long duration of astonishing superstitions, whose popularity resulted from trusting in the authority of past scholars. It is enough to mention such miraculous medical preparations as a potion from a beaver’s testicles or powdered deer horn. Similar miraculous medicines are still popular in traditional Chinese medicine, which sometimes leads to the extinction of rare animal species.

Baby Jesus' dummie, Albrecht Dürer, Madonna with the Siskin, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, public domain.

Anyone who has read any of the novels on Sherlock Holmes knows that taking cocaine or morphine was not anything surprising in the 19th century. Indeed, many substances which nowadays are considered to be drugs were previously used as a remedy for everything. It is worth mentioning the King of England, George IV, who used to start the day with a dose of a laudanum tincture, which was made on the basis of opium oil. Back when he was still the Prince of Wales and a regent exercising power on behalf of the mentally ill George III, had health problems due to his excessive love of food, alcohol and opium. Back then, he was already sometimes called the Prince of the Whales, which was a witty reference to his corpulent figure and a verbal game based on the identical sound of the nickname Prince of Whales, and the title born by the English heirs to the throne – Prince of Wales. Once he became the king, he contracted gout, cataract and atherosclerosis.

The therapies used by Adolf Hitler were a combination of superstitions and drug addiction. The creator of the drugs taken by the hypochondriac tyrant was the famous slob and boor – Dr Theodor Morell, who was also commonly regarded as a mountebank. The most famous of his medicines taken by the Führer was Vitamultin. Despite its name, it did not contain vitamins at all – among others, it included methamphetamine. Drugs, used as medicines, were still widely available in the 20th century. During World War I, heroin and cocaine could be purchased as medicines. In Great Britain, they could be purchased in pharmacies, at the Harrods department store and in military stores. Some British soldiers staying at the front regularly asked their families to send parcels with these medicines. Over time, the UK government banned the sale of cocaine. Strangely, the use of heroin was not prohibited.

But back to the subject of opiates... The high-morphine variety of bread-seed poppy was used in the past not only for the production of opiates but also to help put children to sleep. Poppy mixed with honey was wrapped in a linen handkerchief and rolled into a ball, and a dummy formed in this way was given to children to suck on. There are known representations of the Mother of God with the Baby Jesus holding such a “cumel” (a Cracovian regionalism for “a dummy”).

Elaborated by: Adam Spodaryk (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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“Hydria” apothecary vase

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