Two Italian oil–jars

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Two Italian oil–jars

These giant jars of red earthenware with their distinctive horseshoe-shaped handles were made in the potting town of Montelupo in Tuscany. Jars of this type were used to transport Tuscan olive oil into Britain. The earliest known examples date to c. 1720-50; the trade continued into the Victorian period, when such jars were sometimes mounted on shop fronts as the shop signs of ironmongers who sold Italian oil.

These two examples were removed in the 1980s from the garden of a house in Upper Paul Street, close to our museum. They are believed to date to the late 18th or early 19th centuries. Others can be spotted in Exeter gardens, for example in St Leonard’s Road and Friars Walk, where they make splendid garden ornaments.

Acknowledgments: RAM Museum