Thursday, August 8, 2019

‘Bellarmine’ Pottery Vessels and impure thoughts

There is a tendency among some archaeologists, myself included, to describe all and any pottery with a beardy face on it as ‘Bellarmine’. It’s supposed to be named after Cardinal Robert Bellarmine, not for his venomously anti-Protestant views as mocking him for his equally vociferous dislike of alcohol. Somewhere along the way, the name seems to have lost favour and the worthy alternative of ‘salt-glazed stoneware’ just doesn’t have the same ring to it.

The jug on the left dates to around 1600 and was made in Frechen, Germany. The three medallions around its waist identify it as having been made for Jan Allers,  a Dutch bottle dealer. The patchy colourtion in blue appears to be the result of a misfiring accident – the bottle may not have come out looking exactly right, but it was still able to serve its purpose. The one on the right is slightly earlier, dating to around 1540, and is from Cologne. The face is beautifully sculpted, being closer to a genuine portrait than the much more amateur and cartoonish mask on the other example. I do wonder about the symmetry of the beard. It’s nice and all, but there is something distinctly vaginal to the arrangement. Maybe it’s just me and my corrupted mind, or maybe the sculptor was adding a further layer of mockery to Bobby Bellarmine … ‘Old Vagina Beard’! … But I’m probably just broken in some fundamental way …

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