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Snake-shaped storage jar, Europe, 1801-1900

Used in a pharmacy or an apothecary shop, this unusual snake-like storage jar is made of earthenware. The original contents of this jar are unknown, but snakes have had links with medicine since ancient Greece when they were connected with Asklepios, the Greek and Roman god of medicine. This storage jar is from the collection of the Italian opera tenor Evangelista Gennaro Gorga (1865-1957). Gorga’s collection was of ‘medical antiquities’. Part of the collection was sold in 1924 and consisted of pharmacy ware and Roman votive offerings. The jar is shown here with a similar example (A633617).

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Glossary: storage jar

A jar used to store objects or substances.

Glossary: earthenware

Pottery made of clay which is fired at a relatively low temperature. Earthenware is often semi-porous, meaning some liquid or air can pass through it. This can be altered by treating the pottery with a glaze.