An imported medicine jar from Beauvais

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An imported medicine jar from Beauvais

This near-complete example of an albarello (medicine jar) was excavated in Fore Street around 1880. It is one of the finest examples of the elaborately decorated pottery of the region around Beauvais in northern France ever found in Britain.

The albarello, with its distinctive incurving form, was a vessel form copied by European potters from the Islamic world. Such vessels were made in the late middle ages in Spain and Italy in tin-glazed earthenware (maiolica), and used for storing medicine. This vessel reflects the way in which potters in northern Europe copied the fine maiolicas of the Mediterranean. The potters of Beauvais were among the most skilful of northern Europe, working both in white earthenware and stoneware. This example was thrown in white earthenware, then coated in red slip, followed by a second slip of white clay. Its complicated range of colours resulted from the scratching of a sharp tool through the slip, sometimes revealing the red underlying slip, sometimes the white body below. Blackish (? manganese) and green (copper) oxides added further colour. The inscription reads 'TOUT YRA BIEN' - all will be well - no doubt a reference to the healing properties of the jar's contents. The vessel dates to c. 1500-50, a period when many household goods were imported into Exeter through the port of Rouen.

Acknowledgments: RAM Museum