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Gourd bottle, believed to be a pomander, cased, Europe, 1659

Gourds are hard shelled fruits from a vine and this example is believed to have been used as a pomander. These were vessels used to carry around fragrant herbs and other substances as protection against infection and illness, then believed to be carried by foul-smelling disease miasmas. The gourd is intricately carved with a picture of the Greek god Dionysus sitting on a barrel, playing a flute and surrounded by a grapevine. Dionysus – or Bacchus as the Romans named him – was the god of wine and intense pleasure. There is also the name “Thomas Jordan” carved into the bottle. He is likely to have been either the owner or the maker of the bottle.

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    Glossary: gourd

    The ornamental, hard-shelled fruit of a vine.Hollowed gourds can be used as a number of things, including bowls or bottles.

    Glossary: pomander

    Small containers for fragrant spices or perfumes. A pomander was originally carried in the belief that it kept infection away.