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The inscription “SEM D’ APPIO” indicates that this jar was for smallage seeds, smallage being a variety of wild celery. As well as being used for flavouring foods, smallage was used medicinally to encourage menstrual flow and the passing of urine. Albarello vases, with their characteristic hourglass shape, originated in Persia. The shape was developed so that lots of jars could be put on one shelf, but each could still be safely removed by grasping it around the middle. This type of decorated pottery is known as maiolica (or majolica) and is believed to be named after the island of Majorca, where the finest pots of this type were said to be made. This example is from a group of potteries based in the town of Deruta, in Umbria, Italy.

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Related Themes and Topics



Glossary: pharmacy

The preparation and medicinal dispensing of drugs.

Glossary: albarello

A form of jar, typically from Medieval Spain, used for storing drugs. The word ‘albarello’ is of Spanish origin but historians appear divided over whether or not the design of the jar originated in Spain, Morocco or China. The shape of the waisted jar is distinctive.