Friday, 9 January 2015

Bellarmine Jars

In the Pitt Rivers Museum we have seven Bellarmine bottles.  The bottles are also known as Bartmann jugs or ‘greybeards’. 

The vessels were originally used to transport wine from Northern Germany to England in the 16th and 17th century.  The name Bartmann means ‘man with a beard’ in German.  This type of vessel was made at a pottery in Frechen near Cologne.

The vessels are stoneware and salt glazed.  The bearded face is a mould added to the neck of the vessel.  Later 17th-century vessels also had moulded medallions on the body of jug.

The jugs in the Pitt Rivers Museum were recently studied by a researcher interested in witch bottles and concealed objects. Two of the Pitt Rivers Museum bottles have contents and could have been used as witch bottles.    

The bottles contain nails, pins and hair.  One bottle contains a cloth heart. 

Top right: PRM accession number 1893.81.4
Left: PRM accession number 1910.18.1 with its contents pictured below.

Jugs from the PRM collections for inspection in the visiting researchers' room 

Witch bottles are said to offer protection and counteract spells cast by witches. The Museum of Soho has a bellarmine bottle that was found concealed in a wall. 

Madeleine Ding
Assistant Curator

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