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Les objets du voyage/ le voyage des objets en Europe

Objets croisés: Albarelli as Vessels of Mediation Within and Beyond the Spezieria

Objets croisés: les Arbarelli et leurs médiations dans et par-delà l’officine
Leah R. Clark

Résumés

Cette étude se penche sur les pots en céramique et en métal utilisés pour les épices et les aromates au XVe siècle. Elle les envisage comme des objets composites, structurés jusque dans leurs matériaux, motifs, techniques, contenus et fonctions par le voyage, entendu en un sens littéral comme métaphorique. S'appuyant sur des études qui comprennent le voyage ou le mouvement comme faisant partie intégrante du sens même d'un objet, ainsi que comme une catégorie de valeur en soi, elle propose la notion d’« objets croisés » pour faire état de la nature hybride de multiples objets matériels de l’époque. La mobilité des pots de pharmacie (albarelli) en céramique et métal, qui voyagent depuis l’officine de l’apothicaire (spezieria) jusque dans l’intérieur des maisons de l’élite sociale dans l’Italie de la Renaissance, fournit à cet article une étude de cas privilégiée. On y voit notamment comment la nature plurisensorielle des pots participe de leur valeur sociale. Les décorations de ces contenants révèlent des schémas complexes d’imitation, d’emprunt et de traduction, qui soulignent la manière dont les personnes, les pratiques et les objets entremêlent leurs histoires, subissent des influences mutuelles, et construisent ensemble un dialogue interculturel. Si les céramiques et les objets en métal illustrent à la fois comment voyages et mouvements font intrinsèquement partie de la valeur d’un objet, ils démontrent aussi comment ces artefacts nient souvent une catégorie d’origine géographique fixe. Le langage contemporain utilisé pour décrire leur provenance peut être aussi trompeur qu'informatif, soulignant la nécessité d'un examen attentif des objets eux-mêmes en regard de documents d'archives et d’une étude des échanges sociaux qu'ils ont engendrés à l'intérieur comme à l'extérieur de la pharmacie.

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Research for this article was generously supported by a British Academy/Leverhulme grant. I would like to thank the two anonymous reviewers for their comments and Anne Geoffroy for putting the volume together and for her organisation of the workshop on the theme of “Objects of Travel” in Paris in November 2017. I am grateful to the other participants at the workshop for their comments and their papers. Much of my thinking around aromatics and albarelli have been enriched by conversations at the Sensory Experiences seminars and the annual conference of the Medieval and Early Modern Research Group at the Open University.

Introduction

Fig. 1: Basil pot 1440-1470, tin-glazed earthenware, metallic lustre. Accepted in lieu of Inheritance Tax by H M Government and allocated to the National Trust for Waddesdon Manor, 2016, acc no: 10287. Photo: Waddesdon Image Library, Mike Fear

  • 1 Anthony Ray, “The Rothschild ‘Alfabeguer’ and Other Fifteenth-Century Spanish Lustred ‘Basil-Pots’” (...)
  • 2 Ibid., p. 371.
  • 3 Lieselotte E. Saurma-Jeltsch, “Introduction: About the Agency of Things, of Objects and Artefacts”, (...)

1A rare example of a basil pot dating from the fifteenth century can be found in the Rothschild collections at Waddesdon Manor in Buckinghamshire (Figure 1). These sorts of pots, known as alfabeguers, also appear in paintings of the time, depicted in domestic interiors or on Italian terrazzi as markers of fine taste as well as serving curative purposes by scenting the air. The pot reveals the interlacing of numerous cultures in its material, decoration, and function, as well as its name, demonstrating how composite objects or “object croisés” reflect the complex exchanges engendered by fifteenth-century trade and travel. The word alfabeguer derives from the Arabic al-’habac (sweet basil) becoming alfabaga in Valencian or albahaquero in Castilian.1 Already in 1397 the company of the merchant of Prato, Francesco di Marco Datini was importing these vessels into Italy, recorded as “alfabichieri”.2 These linguistic mutations reflect the cultural translations of ceramics – both on a surface level of decoration as well as on a material one. As foreign ceramics travel to a new location, they do not remain discreet “foreign objects”, but rather influence local production, producing new composite objects and in turn new environments.3 The pot is made of ceramic lusterware, a technique that was adopted in Spain, learned from Muslim craftsmen. Ceramics coming from the Middle East and further afield from China were highly admired in Europe, and gave rise to replications, imitations, and transmutations. The motifs on such a vessel demonstrate an incorporation of “foreign” floral patterns made local while the addition of an Italian coat of arms suggests it was designed for export to Italy. Once in Italy, these objects might be described in inventories as “alla moresca” (in the Moorish style) or even “alla damaschina” (in the damascene style), raising complex issues around categorisations and labelling. Such descriptions often reflect misunderstandings regarding provenance and sites of manufacture both for fifteenth-century viewers as well as scholars today who attempt to make meaning of primary sources. Such an object’s use and reception in Italy thus reveal a complex pattern of exchange over time and provide a useful starting point to discuss the ways in which materials and motifs travelled in early modernity.

  • 4 Michael North (ed.), Artistic and Cultural Exchanges between Europe and Asia, 1400-1900, Farnham an (...)
  • 5 Michael Werner and Bénédicte Zimmermann, “Beyond Comparison: Histoire Croisée and the Challenge of (...)
  • 6 Susanna Burghartz, Lucas Burkart, and Christine Göttler (eds), Sites of Mediation: Connected Histor (...)

2When objects circulate, they do not simply move from one location to another, but rather leave traces, altering their new settings and taking on new identities, leading to cultural transfer. Post-colonial studies have challenged the somewhat straightforward nature of understanding cultural transfer, claiming it is too Eurocentric by glossing over the dynamics of intercultural processes and transformations.4 As a response, Michael Werner and Bénédicte Zimmerman have proposed the idea of histoire croisée or “crossed history”, which analyses both the global and local not simply from a comparative point of view, but by investigating the multilateral entanglements of multiple actors with varying viewpoints.5 This approach moves away from binary oppositions (East/West or North/South, for example) and places emphasis on frames of reference, rather than a transfer between two points, which usually implies some form of a beginning and an end. The use of the term “croisé” refers to a criss-cross, the possibility to reverse and reciprocate, which moves away from a linear process and places emphasis on intersections, whereby persons, practices, and objects are intertwined or affected by this crossing process. Similarly, “sites of mediation” refer to the places where dynamic processes of transcultural and translocal interactions, interconnections, and entanglements take place.6

  • 7 Jerry Brotton, The Renaissance Bazaar. From the Silk Road to Michelangelo, Oxford, Oxford Universit (...)
  • 8 Avinoam Shalem, “Dangerous Claims On the ‘Othering’ of Islamic Art History and How it Operates with (...)

3Drawing upon sociological, anthropological, and historical studies, I propose the term “objets croisés” as a means to examine the entangled nature of early modern objects and material culture, providing a more complex reading of cultural interaction. In recent years there has been a plethora of edited journal volumes, books, and conferences in Renaissance studies concentrated on the mobility and circulation of objects, with a particular focus on cross-cultural exchanges.7 In art history, this is largely the result of two major changes in the discipline: the “object” or material turn, and the global turn. These interventions in the field, however, have not approached the material in the same way, and some have been more successful than others in addressing the benefits as well as the shortcomings of these approaches. These contributions have allowed the field to test the waters, push the boundaries of particular theories, and have led to more nuanced approaches. Composite objects that sit between two or more cultural traditions can underline the interconnectedness of the world, revealing that there never really are “pure” or authentic cultural traditions and products. The recent emphasis on the circulation of goods and the mobility of objects, nevertheless, risks losing sight of the contestations and struggles that occurred in the early modern period. A celebration of the world of goods and consumption habits might simply be a return to, or a recasting of, Jacob Burkhardt’s celebration of the Renaissance as the birth of the modern (and now global) individual. As the field unfolds, scholars have already begun outlining the problems with these approaches.8 Cultural “exchange” can sometimes be straightforward, but it rarely is. Along with translation, as anyone knows who has learned a new language, there are often misunderstandings. Entangled or crossed histories thus also recognise that there are often misapprehension, anxiety, misinterpretations and sometimes outright rejection of other cultural forms, which also need to be taken into consideration.

  • 9 For a study that really opens up these questions for the field, see Elizabeth Rodini, “Mobile Thing (...)
  • 10 Rodini, art. cit.. For language and inventories, see Leah R. Clark, “The Peregrinations of Porcelai (...)

4The approach taken here builds on studies that understand travel and movement as part of an object’s meaning, as well as a category of value in itself.9 Certain types of early modern objects such as ceramics and metalware are particularly useful examples of how travel and movement were intrinsically part of an object’s value, but these artefacts often deny a fixed category of geographic origin. The contemporary language used to describe the provenance of these objects can often be just as misleading as informative, and frequently had more to do with style or the point of purchase rather than any specific geographic source.10 This study therefore focuses on the multiple ways travel could be literally and metaphorically embedded in these objects: through motifs and technique as well as the contents and their uses, giving rise to social exchanges within and beyond the pharmacy. The objects examined here were used as containers for food or spices, which were understood to come from the “East”, while their designs were also part of a circulation of motifs that connected disparate parts of the world. Taken as a case study, with a particular focus on the courts of Italy, these receptacles highlight the sociability of the objects and their associated practices, and also point to the sensorial conditions through which cross-cultural exchange could occur. Reception of these receptacles varied, whether viewed in a pharmacy or in the study of an elite collector, but what remained central to their value and function was their criss-crossed, entangled nature and their association with knowledge and sociability, and the activation of the senses.

Composite Objects/Objets croisés

Fig. 2: Drug jar (albarello) painted in blue, Damascus (?), Syria, first half of the fifteenth century, Musée des Arts Décoratifs, Paris.

  • 11 Mack, op. cit., p. 97.

5A drug jar in the Musée des Arts Décoratifs in Paris (Figure 2), dating from the first half of the fifteenth century, provides a provocative example of the fusion of motifs. The albarello was made in Syria, most likely Damascus, and yet contains an emblem of the florin, suggesting it was created for export to Florence. The floral scrolls and flying birds are typical of Syrian wares inspired by Persian pottery and Chinese porcelain, yet the florin points to Italian consumers.11 Both the alfabeguer and the damascene albarello can tell us much about transculturality, by looking at the objects themselves: examining the material composition and motifs but also their uses.

Fig. 3: Page from the “Canon of Medicine” by Avicenna (Ibn Sina), fifteenth century. Biblioteca Universitaria di Bologna, ms. 2197. Credit: Bridgeman Images

6An apothecary shop depicted in a manuscript of the Canon Medicinae of Avicenna shows blue and white vessels placed on shelves with floral motifs with some jars sporting what appears to be script (Figure 3). The miniature was executed in Ferrara for a Jewish pharmacist and reflects the activities of its owner and reader. Drug jars evoke a sense of sociability in their shape and function: they were ergonomically modelled to ease handling when taken off the shelf. Contents would have been emptied either into another receptacle to make a concoction for a customer, or within a courtly pharmacy, the contents were sometimes transported within the palace in an albarello or another similar vessel. In both cases, the vessels initiated a social exchange between the pharmacist and the patient. The pharmacist was not a doctor, but in the hierarchy of court, close proximity to the bodies of the ruling family would have carried with it a status, not unlike artists and court jesters, as Evelyn Welch has argued. Drug jars took a variety of forms depending on the contents: liquid syrups and electuaries (honey mixed with medicinal powders) would be stored in ovoid shapes with long spouts, while solids and ointments were kept in ociuoli (ovoid) or cylindrical (albarello) receptacles. The word albarello, like alfabeguer, probably derives from the Arabic al barani, meaning a container, modelled on the shape of a bamboo stalk section.

7As suggested by the miniature, contents were articulated by written inscriptions, still visible on some drug jars today (Figure 3, also see Figure 9). Those in the miniature bear resemblance to a jar now in the Victoria and Albert Museum, which was probably made in Florence in the fifteenth century (Figure 4). The vessel borrows floral motifs from Middle Eastern imports, inspired by Chinese blue and white porcelain, while the body is marked with thick blue lines, as if referencing text, and in particular, non-Latin script. Rather than content signs, these seem to be a deliberate abstraction of script that brings to the fore the types of cultural translations that occur on both a surface and symbolic level. This sort of tin-glazed earthenware was indeed a novelty for Italian ceramic producers, who looked to the more famous and well-established lusterware that was being produced in Spain.

Fig. 4: Florentine drug jar (albarello), tin-glazed earthenware, mid-fifteenth century, Victoria and Albert Museum, 1147-1904

Fig. 5: Valencian (Manises) drug jar (albarello), tin-glazed earthenware, 1375-1400, Victoria and Albert Museum, 488-1864

  • 12 Mack, op. cit., 108.
  • 13 John Carswell, Iznik Pottery, London, British Museum Press, 1998.
  • 14 Albarello, earthenware, Iznik 'Golden Horn' style, 1550-1600, Genoa, British Museum, 990,0502.1.

8Such a jar was likely inspired by Spanish prototypes such as Figure 5, made in Manises and decorated with blue and white registers and pseudo-Arabic script. The non-readable script becomes a pattern in itself, no longer meaningful in its legibility but as a decorative motif that speaks to cross-cultural exchanges, mixings, and medleys. It is thus the motifs that travel and transmute. This abstraction of script is also evident in the so-called “Golden Horn” or tughra motifs found on ceramics made in Iznik in the sixteenth century, but also adapted in Italy. An Iznik example from 1529 (Figure 6) displays scrolling florettes in a band of pattern at the top, while the lower body is decorated with spiral scrolls with leaves and hooks, creating concentric circles. This circular decoration is often called tughra because of its similarity to the motifs found on the monogram or tughra of Sultan Süleiman the Magnificent of Turkey (Figure 7).12 The concentric circles mimic actual text, written in Armenian on the base (Figure 8), as well as on the collar.13 This same tughra motif, now further abstracted and simplified, can be found on other albarelli such as an example in the British Museum, thought to have been made in Genoa in the latter part of the sixteenth century, underscoring the ways in which motifs travel and transmute across cultures, and in turn create objets croisés.14

Fig. 6: (top left) Ottoman bottle, Iznik, glazed pottery, 1529, British Museum, G.16

Fig. 7: (above) Tughra (Insignia) of Sultan Süleiman the Magnificent, Ink, opaque watercolor, and gold on paper, 1555-1560, Metropolitan Museum of Art, Rogers Fund, 1938, 38.149.2

9Fig. 8: (left) Detail of Figure 6, bottom with inscription

Inscriptions and motifs

  • 15 Mack, op. cit., p. 51.
  • 16 Alicia Walker, “Meaningful Mingling: Classicizing Imagery and Islamicizing Script in a Byzantine Bo (...)

10The presence of scripts, pseudo-scripts, and their transmutation into decorative motifs underscores the persistence of language and signs as a means of communicating knowledge. The insertion of pseudo-Arabic script in Italian paintings of the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries has often been described as “exotic”, serving “principally as erudite accessories”. As Rosamund Mack has noted, they are “literally senseless” but can “convey symbolic meanings that differ […] according to context.”15 Moving beyond a simple explanation of “ignorance” or confusion, I suggest here that it is important to contemplate how the presence of these signs, coupled with the fusion of a variety of motifs on these vessels, could speak to a “meaningful mingling”, to use a term borrowed from Alicia Walker.16 Indeed, by examining these signs as significant rather than generic or ignorant, it is possible to locate the creation of meaning within the object itself, and the relationship that object establishes between difficult cultures, particularly in the case of apothecary jars that served specific purposes.

Fig. 9: Valencian (Manises) drug jar (albarello) with content sign, tin-glazed earthenware, sixteenth century, Metropolitan Museum of Art, Bequest of George Blumenthal, 1941, 41.190.225

  • 17 The Tacuinum Sanitatis, for example, derived from a work in Arabic by Ibn Butlan el Bagdadi, transl (...)
  • 18 Paul Freedman, “Spices and Late-Medieval European Ideas of Scarcity and Value”, Speculum, 80.4, 200 (...)
  • 19 Patrick Wallis, “Consumption, Retailing, and Medicine in Early-Modern London”, The Economic History (...)
  • 20 Laughran, art. cit., p. 95-107.

11On the one hand, the misunderstanding and mistakes in transcriptions of different scripts signal a larger confusion about an expanding world. On the other hand, however, the fascination with foreign scripts point to a keen interest in other cultures, and the knowledge associated with Arabic learning, particularly in the realms of medicine.17 The presence of illegible inscriptions could work to create the aura of specialised knowledge of the apothecary, either through content signs, still registered on some jars (Figure 9), or in the form of pseudo-Arabic (Figure 5), underlining the connections to Arabic knowledge and the origin of the spices from the East. The procurement of spices was fabled to be dangerous, such as the recurring stories of pepper guarded by poisonous serpents; thus the allure lay in the complexity of acquisition and the specialised knowledge of their properties and efficacious use.18 The ordered and beautifully presented jars housing merchandise in apothecary shops could both complicate and clarify, as argued by Patrick Wallis. Such carefully showcased drugs could emphasize highly specialised skills and knowledge but just as easily operate as a manufactured disguise of incompetency.19 Indeed, the term ‘scruple’ referred to the measurement used in apothecary preparations but in the sixteenth century came to have the moral meaning we use today in terms of somebody having scruples or not.20

  • 21 There is evidence that women ran pharmacies within the city, see Alice Frothingham Wilson, “Apothec (...)
  • 22 Description of contents from inventories can be found in Evelyn S. Welch, “Space and Spectacle in t (...)
  • 23 “quei bussolotti, quegli albarelli, e quelle scatole che con lettere maiuscole e grosse, e alludono (...)

12The apothecary’s attention to the furnishing of his or her shop reflected the practical necessities as well as the associative connotations of a place for news and knowledge.21 Inventories of apothecary shops reflect the importance contemporaries placed on the receptacles to display or house their products, as evident in the miniature (Figure 3). Albarelli in the hundreds are often mentioned, as well as a range of other vessels such as bronze mortars, ceramic oil flasks, glass flasks for distilled water, syrup jars, and more.22 Apothecary shops were also places to buy other goods such as wax, confectionaries and soap. The attention to the specific material of the vessels is evident in an early seventeenth-century manual: “It will be useful as Democrates says, referring to Galen […] if they are of glass, silver, horn, pewter or terracotta as all these are dense and hard materials, amongst which glass and gold are to be praised as nothing can mix with them that can be damaging.”23

  • 24 Quoted and translated in Welch, art. cit., p. 146.
  • 25 Quoted in ibid., p. 145. For early modern pharmacies and their practices see Jean-Pierre Bénézet (...)

13Impressive packaging contributed to the value of raw goods but just as easily could disguise counterfeit medicines. Inscriptions on jars became the subject of scrutiny, as instruments of “frauds and tricks” as Tomaso Garzoni remarked in 1585: “those jars and boxes with large capital letters, which tell of a thousand unguents or confections or precious aromatics - but they are empty inside, carrying these ridiculous inscriptions outside.”24 The knowledge of an apothecary also depended on their literacy, as Ulisse Aldrovandi remarked that the “majority of apothecaries who ought to be knowledgeable in this material, are, nonetheless, completely ignorant and often barely know how to read. From time to time, they mistake one simple for its opposite with poisonous qualities.” Proper experts, instead, “as a minimum […] know Latin and make a knowledge of simples their professions rather than selling groceries such as wax, oil, soap and a thousand other impertinent things.”25

  • 26 “littere sacre or siano syrie o babilonice”, Alexander Nagel, Some Discoveries of 1492: Eastern Ant (...)

14Inscriptions on such drug jars could thus serve as allusions to knowledge as well as verifiable learning, but also a growing interest in the history of languages. For example, in September 1498 Isabella d’Este, the Marchioness of Mantua wrote to Paride Ceresara, her humanist advisor, thanking him for the samples of “Syrian or Babylonian sacred letters” he had sent. Alexander Nagel has suggested that she probably meant “Syriac or Aramaic”.26 Such a confusion and uncertainty provides an indication of the interest in foreign letters on an associative level rather than a fully cognitive one. Isabella was likely interested in these “sacred letters” as a holy language, with links to antiquity, Christian origins, and even divinity.

  • 27 Walker, art. cit., p. 47.

15Inscriptions, like signatures, had the ability to convey meaning on a symbolic level beyond the literal message, through form and context.27 In March 1511, Lorenzo da Pavia wrote to Isabella d’Este about a metal vessel:

  • 28 “Illustrissima et Excelentisima Madona, per el portatore di questa, ch’è mio fratelo, mando uno pic (...)

My brother [is also] bringing a large damascened vase in a beautiful shape, inlaid well and with some large letters in the Moorish style, the most beautiful I have ever seen. And also, I have another smaller vase with cover - if you want it, I’ll send it - worked in a similar way but in the modern manner, done by the hand of the best master that can be found in Damascus.28

  • 29 Rodini, op. cit., p. 7. So-called “Veneto-Saracenic” metalware has raised a lot of questions around (...)

16This passage is revealing on a number of accounts, as it conveys both a specific and generic knowledge. Firstly, the reference to “large letters in the Moorish style” suggests ignorance of what the letters convey and even the specific script, yet Lorenzo da Pavia seems to suggest this serves a decorative function, which places the object as one from afar. This goes beyond simply collecting the “exotic”, rather as Elizabeth Rodini has observed, primary sources convey that contemporaries often placed emphasis on style and technique, rather than specific origins.29 Lorenzo is a discerning agent; his description conveys an astute knowledge of what is available on the market in Damascus, and in particular, the different styles and techniques of metalwork on offer. It is hard to know what “the modern manner” refers to but it is clear Lorenzo was able to make a comparison of difference between the two. The dish with script may have looked similar to a number of vessels with large script, such as a bowl now in the Metropolitan Museum of Art with inscriptions praising Sultan Qaytbay (Figure 10) dating from his rule, somewhere between 1468-96. The vase with cover in the “modern manner” may have been referencing something similar to a bowl with a lid (Figure 11) dated to the first part of the sixteenth century. Here the decoration is of a tighter knot pattern with a blackened ground. The blank shields on these vessels were typically found on export wares, made for European consumers who could customise the objects by having local craftsmen add arms. The tight lid on this object suggests it was used to house spices, providing an association between Mamluk metalware and its restorative contents, further evidenced by Mamluk incense or perfume burners, which were also popular in Italian collections (Figure 12).

  • 30 Brown, Isabella d'Este, p. 247-250.
  • 31 Alessandro Luzio, Isabella d'Este e il sacco di Roma, Milano, L.F. Cogliati, 1908. Also see Geraldi (...)
  • 32 There are a number of entries for Isabella d’Este, see, Archivio di Stato di Modena Spezieria (here (...)

17Isabella d’Este’s inventory of 1542 points to the presence of ceramic and metal vessels, in addition to her well-known collection of antiquities and paintings, such as a small metal vase alla moresca worked in gold and silver, in addition to mounted porcelain. The use of aromatics is evident in Isabella’s correspondence with her agent Lorenzo da Pavia, discussing the purchase of various perfumes, including “acqua damaschina” and vials, some of which were given as diplomatic gifts to fellow rulers.30 Isabella’s inventory also mentions various flasks meant to hold scented water as well as a metal perfume burner perforated with arabesque designs, possibly of Mamluk manufacture, that would have incensed the air.31 The pharmacy records from the court of Ferrara also mention cinnamon being assembled for a perfume burner for Isabella.32

Fig. 10: Basin of Sultan Qaytbay, Brass inlaid with silver, Egypt or Syria, ca. 1468–96, Metropolitan Museum of Art, Metropolitan Museum of Art, 91.1.565

Fig. 11: Lidded Bowl, Brass inlaid with silver, Damascus?, 1500-1550, Victoria and Albert Museum, 841&A-1891

Aromatics and courtly practices

  • 33 Anna Contadini, “Middle-Eastern Objects” in Marta Ajmar-Wollheim and Flora Dennis (eds), At Home in (...)
  • 34 Adolfo Venturi, "L'arte Ferrarese nel period d'Ercole I d'Este I," Deputazione di storia patria per (...)

18Incense burners provide another provocative example of an objet croisé in function, design, and use and their value is inherently linked to their very mobility. Originally derived from a Chinese tradition of using perforated metal balls suspended from ceilings, the Mamluks supplied the interior cavity with a gimbal mechanism that allowed the contents - usually aromatics such as incense, musk or sandalwood - to stay upright and continue burning when rolled (Figure 12). Translated into Italy, incense burners could serve this function by being hung up, but they were also used as handwarmers and decorative pieces.33 The association with eastern traditions would have been made, not only by the decorative motifs often described as “damascene” but also the contents, and it is likely that these burners featured among many of the diplomatic gifts given from the Mamluk sultans to the princely elite in Italy. These burners could also be bought alongside other luxuries from the silk roads. In the 1470s, the Ferrarese ambassador in Venice, Galeazzo Strozzi wrote to Duke Ercole d’Este concerning things he could procure there for him, including a damascene silver incense burner and a head of a Saracen, in addition to items Domenico di Piero had obtained from Pope Paul II: “porphyry, chalcedony, porcelain, and alabaster worked into vases and dishes”.34

Fig. 12: Venetian/Syrian? Perfume burner, c. 1450-1500, Brass, pierced, engraved and silver damascened with black lacquer infill, Syria or Venice, Victoria and Albert Museum, M.58-1952

  • 35 For the circulation and exchange of medicine and spices and their functions, see Harold J. Cook and (...)
  • 36 Mack, op. cit, p. 23; Doris Behrens-Abouseif, Practising Diplomacy in the Mamluk Sultanate. Gifts a (...)
  • 37 "cose odorifere, in begli vasegli alla moresca; e fiaschi pieni di balsam, e un bello e grande pavi (...)
  • 38 " Un bel cavallo baio; animali strani, montoni e pecore di vari colori con orecchi lunghi sino alle (...)

19Aromatics and spices served a number of purposes in the early modern world used as medicines, cleaning agents, seasonings for food, perfumes both to scent the body and the air, and even as an apotropaic and were often given as gifts.35 The receptacles for these aromatics were also frequently part of the gift, ranging from glass flasks and metal incense burners to albarelli and porcelain, underlining the sociable nature of these objects that were bound up in the layers of reciprocity of gift-giving. For example, in 1473, Sultan Qaytbay of Cairo sent Doge Nicolo Tron twenty pieces of porcelain, five pieces of muslin, sugar, aloewood, benzoic resin, a flask of balsam, ten containers of theriac, a horn of civet perfume, and sweets.36 Gifts to European courts from the Mamluks are indicative of chains of exchange across larger geographic areas. Giraffes, spices, and Chinese porcelain were not local to Egypt or Syria but were obtained through trade and diplomacy with African and Yemen courts, which in turn were then gifted to Europeans. Well known are the gifts from Qaytbay’s ambassador, Mohammed Ibn-Mahfuz who presented to the Florentine merchant-banker and de facto ruler Lorenzo de’ Medici "odoriferous things [i.e. aromatics], in beautiful vases alla moresca [in the Moorish style]; and flasks full of balsam, and a beautiful large tent alla moresca."37 In 1487 Piero Dovizi da Bibbiena described these same gifts in a letter to Lorenzo’s wife Clarici Orsini. Included in the long list of gifts, he noted “a large flask of balsam; two civet horns” (likely holding civet musk); aloewood; “big vases of porcelain not similar to anything seen before nor better worked”; “large vases of confectionaries, mirabelle prunes and giengotuo” (likely gengiovo the medieval term for ginger).38

  • 39 Anthony Grafton, Commerce with the Classics: Ancient Books and Renaissance Readers, Ann Arbor, The (...)
  • 40 Jeffrey L. Collins and Meredith Martin, “Early Modern Incense Boats: Commerce, Christianity, and Cu (...)
  • 41 Nina Ergin, "The Fragrance of the Divine: Ottoman Incense Burners and Their Context," The Art Bulle (...)
  • 42 Ergin, art.cit., p. 74.
  • 43 Guido Donatone, Maioliche napoletane della spezieria aragonese di Castelnuovo, Naples, L. Regina,19 (...)

20Perfuming the air was seen to serve medicinal purposes and could aid the scholar. In Angelo Decembrio’s De politia literraria (on literary refinement) dating from the 1450s, learned courtiers and humanists discuss with Leonello d’Este, the Marquis of Ferrara, the decoration of a library. Scholars are encouraged to scent the study with “sweet odors - though not those that hurt the brain, such as white lilies and cypress planks.” In addition, “twigs of rosemary and myrrh or bouquets of roses and violets and sweet apples” are also said to not only delight but also prevent against insects and thus help the scholar as well as maintain the books and other possessions found in the study.39 Incense could also serve a religious function in Buddhist, Hindu, Islamic, Hebrew, Pagan and Christian belief. Often used in Mass in the Christian context, it came to be associated with travel and transport, particularly in the case of naviculae, incense containers that took their form as boats. In the thirteenth century, the Bishop of Mende interpreted the rising smoke as a means to chart the faithful’s pilgrimage across the sea towards a heavenly home, thus evoking a sense of communication between the sacred and earthly realms but also underscoring the idea of travel. 40At the Topkapi palace in Istanbul, the Ottoman sultan employed perfumers (buhurcu or anberineci) who compiled special recipes for fumigatories that were produced in the palace’s pharmacy.41 Perfume and incense were part of everyday life at the Ottoman court, where activities throughout the day were punctuated with olfactory experiences, from burning perfumed candles before bed to incense that accompanied meals, musical performances, and religious ritual.42 While records are sparse, there is evidence that there was a room dedicated to perfume (‘camera dei profumi’) in the Castel Nuovo in Naples under King Ferrante d’Aragona, where the royal perfumer, Paolo della Pietra kept a variety of special receptacles in painted ivory, gold, silver, porcelain, and some decorated alla moresca.43

  • 44 ASMO Speziaria 1 16V, 46V
  • 45 ASMO Guardaroba (hereafter G) 114 105R, 107R, 149R. For her porcelain collection see Clark, “Peregr (...)
  • 46 Meyer, op. cit., p. 10-11.
  • 47 Shaw and Welch, op.cit., p. 252.
  • 48 Andrea Russo, L'arte degli speziali in Napoli, Naples, A.E. Vitolo, 1966.

21Inventories and account book from the court of Ferrara attest to the knowledge of, and interest in, the efficacy of certain herbs and spices and their daily uses but also their interaction with many of the vessels discussed here. The account books of the “speziaria” or pharmacy attached to the Este court in Ferrara from the early sixteenth century record a number of medicines and aromatics being used by the ruling family. Rose water, for example, is described held in a green albarello for Cardinal Ippolito d’Este.44 Eleonora d’Aragona, Duchess of Ferrara had small blue-and-white porcelain vase as well as a gilded copper flask, which were both used for rose water.45 Rosewater was made in the Islamic world, and in the late medieval period a special type of distillation process in a village near Damascus gave rise to the production of the famous Rosa damascena.46 The contrast of green or blue and white against the light pinkish hues of rose water underscores the importance of colour for many of these objects. Indeed, colours could play a particular role in the efficacy of certain treatments. Red epithems, for example, made from roses, coral, or red sandalwood were applied to the body with a scarlet cloth to aid a heart condition, while the colours of certain gems were thought to be particularly efficacious as discussed below.47 Using the wrong colour could provoke wrath from the sovereign, evident when King Alfonso d’Aragona punished his speziale for using red coral instead of white in an electuary.48

  • 49 Caroline Corisande Anderson, “The Material Culture of Domestic Religion in Early Modern Florence, c (...)
  • 50 Ibid., p. 21-28.
  • 51 Anna Contadini, op.cit., p. 308-321.
  • 52 Ibid., p. 313-4.

22Mamluk metalware was also employed as water buckets, accompanied by sprinklers (or asperges) often used for Holy Water, although the buckets alone could be used in secular contexts of washing one’s hands or simply used to carry water within the palace. Acqua santa or holy water was a mix of salt and water blessed by a member of the clergy and was only supposed to be used for religious purposes, such as during Mass, prayers, placed on sick individuals for miracle recovery, and to cast out evil spirits from the house.49 Inventory descriptions imply many of these were part of religious rituals in the elite household, and often used with other objects of material and visual culture.50 A well-known painting by Carpaccio of Saint Ursula shows how holy water buckets were used in tandem with religious images, as the bucket with sprinkler appears hanging below a painting, while a candle burns in front of it.51 Surviving examples of water buckets are often decorated with damascene motifs, many of which were likely made in Syria.52

Fig. 13: Water bucket, Egypt or Syria, fifteenth century, brass and damascened with silver, Galleria Estense, Modena, inv. 2074. Photo by the author

Fig. 14: Bronze mortar, Middle East, 1501-1800. Science Museum, London. CC © The Board of Trustees of the Science Museum

  • 53 ASMO Amministrazione de Principi (hereafter AP) 638 16R-16V.
  • 54 Uno sechielo da ottone cum dui pipij per dare laqua ale mano” ASMO G 114 127V.
  • 55 ASMO G 114 149R-151V.
  • 56 ASMO AP 638 7V, 97V.

23Eleonora d’Aragona’s inventories at the court of Ferrara reveal the variety of water buckets an elite patron could own. She had a number of buckets for holy water in silver, including a small one that was being used by her daughter Isabella d’Este in her room, when she was still living in Ferrara.53 Others were made from a variety of materials including copper, white glass, blue glass, and brass. One brass bucket is described as having ‘dui pipij per dare laqua ale mano (two mouths for pouring water on the hands).54 At least three were of gilded silver ‘ala francese’ (in the French style), one with putti in bas-relief, and another with the Eleonora’s arms and the house of Este.55 Her account books record buying one silver bucket for holy water from a Neapolitan in 1485, while another in copper from a German in 1487.56 A bucket from the collections of the Ferrarese court in Modena dating from the fifteenth century is of Mamluk manufacture, made in brass with silver decoration and may have been one of those listed in Eleonora’s inventory (Figure 13).

  • 57 ASMO AP 638. For a discussion of these books, see Clark, op.cit, Introduction.
  • 58 “bevande prservatrici del contagion a base di rose, cicorie, sedani e fiori di cedrangoli.” Quoted (...)

24Perhaps more revealing are the traces of use in the book of her guardaroba, dating from 1478-85, which detail the movement of objects in her collections. Numerous entries note that such water buckets with their accompanying sprinklers are being removed from the stores to ‘serve Madama in her room’ while at other times, similar items are released to her chaplain to be used in her chapel or in an oratory.57 Such archival descriptions elucidate the sociable nature of these objects, whether in their movement -removed by the guardarobiere and passed on to the priest - or in their participation of religious rituals or everyday usages. Evidence from the court of Naples also reveals the close association between ruler and speziali, particularly at times of peril, such as in 1493 when pestilence infected the city and King Ferrante fled to Torre del Greco with Daniele Uvis, the head pharmacist. Daniele treated him with a medicine to help combat disease made up of rose water infused with chicory, celery, and orange flowers, while two of his assistants remained behind to cure those sick in the castle.58

  • 59 “vasi b.[ianch]a. lavorati de turchino” ASMO SPEZ 2, 2V.
  • 60 Alessandro Ballarin, Il camerino delle pitture di Alfonso I. Vol. I, Padua, Bertoncello, 2002.
  • 61 The Antonelli papers also still contain the inventory of the porcelain room, indicating the shelves (...)

25An inventory of the Ferrarese court’s speziaria dating from 1535 records a long list of bronze and brass mortars to grind the spices, as well as metal, glass, and ceramic vessels to hold the spices. The mortars too remind us of the close material encounters with the objects and their contents, which necessitated physical contact. An example, now in the Museum of Science in London, probably made in North Africa or Syria, bears the traces of the grinders’ hands who have worn away the damascene patterns (Figure 14). A number of vases found in the Ferrarese spezieria are described as white and decorated in “turchino”, presumably a blue colour, and may have looked similar to the blue and white vessels found in manuscript illumination (Figure 4).59 “Turchino” also suggests associations with Iznik or Ottoman pottery, and may have been an Italian version of Iznik blue ceramics. Spices could find their home in albarelli as discussed, but also later in glass receptacles, some of which were procured by none other than the artist Titian for Duke Alfonso d’Este’s spezieria.60 Indeed, the room recorded in 1559 as the Stanza della Porcellane in the Castel Vecchio in Ferrara evokes a studiolo cum apothecary with its display of Chinese porcelain as well as a number of other artefacts associated with the ‘East’.61 The room included shelves displaying a range of vases in diverse materials, a table, cupboards and wardrobes, containing a diversity of goods including account books, medals, vases, perfume burners, and an ivory inkwell. Sixty-five blue and white porcelain vases were displayed alongside forty-six brass and copper vases. Among numerous porcelain vessels, five vases “lavorati alla damaschina” were displayed on top of a wardrobe close to the door. Deposited in wardrobes and placed on shelves were numerous other items including forty albarelli, a variety of maiolica, glass beakers, metal vessels and hardstones. Such a display underscores that these objects did not stand alone, but interacted with one another within the spaces of the spezieria and beyond.

  • 62 Patricia Aakhus, "Astral Magic in the Renaissance: Gems, Poetry, and Patronage of Lorenzo de' Medic (...)
  • 63 Marsilio Ficino, Three Books on Life. A Critical Edition and Translation with Introduction and Note (...)
  • 64 Shaw and Welch, op.cit., p. 249.
  • 65 Julia I. Miller, "Miraculous Childbirth and the Portinari Altarpiece," The Art Bulletin 77.2, 1995, (...)

26The variety of different types of ceramics in Ferrara, some authentically Chinese while others possibly locally made, suggests the attention to an array of materials to be used according to different contents. The apotropaic quality of porcelain was connected to its very materiality, something contemporaries were aware of, and extended to other precious materials such as gems and jewels. The Picatrix, an eleventh-century Arabic work on astral magic, influenced fifteenth-century Italian treatises and thought.62 Marsilio Ficino’s Books on Life discusses the classification of the planets and the spirit where odours, colours, and spices all have a role to play. For Ficino colour and stone combinations could have particular effects, such as using gold and coral for illuminating the spirit. Specific stones, spices, and colours associated with “Jovial” qualities could also help an ailing belly such as “silver, jacinth, topaz, coral, crystal […] sapphire, green and aery colors” while one should at the same time “entertain thoughts and feelings which are especially Jovial, that is steadfast, composed, religious and law-abiding.”63 Gemstones were also used in powder form to make electuaries. A favourite for headaches, sweet electuaries could also be combined with pearls, coral, sandalwood, powdered gemstones, and silver. At the Speziale del Giglio in Florence in the fifteenth century, medicines could be packaged up and turned into beautiful items for special occasions, such as the ‘confected chicken made with fine sugar and rose water, the flesh of the capon washed several times in rose water, made with ‘common seeds’ and almonds and pine nuts’, covered with powdered spices and gems and packaged in a gilded box or the cordial electuary made from powdered gemstones and presented in a gilded albarello.64 Packaging was certainly important, giving some of these less appealing ingredients a refined appearance. The presence of pseudo-Arabic script on some vessels would have carried a specific connotation with Islamic learning, while the signs and other inscriptions on such vessels may have also been understood to serve magical purposes, endowing objects with supernatural properties. Indeed, the association between such jars and their medicinal contents is apparent in the famous representation of a Spanish lustreware albarello (similar to Figure 9), which appears in the Portinari altarpiece. This painting was made for the high altar of the church of the hospital of Santa Maria Nuova in Florence, where it symbolised the potential for healing—both spiritual and physical.65

  • 66 Welch, art. cit., p. 127-158; Filippo De Vivo, "Pharmacies as Centres of Communication in Early Mod (...)
  • 67 Jürgen Habermas, “The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere: An Inquiry into a Category of (...)
  • 68 De Vivo, art. cit., p. 511.
  • 69 Paula Findlen, Possessing Nature: Museums, Collecting and Scientific Culture in Early Modern Italy, (...)
  • 70 For the sociability of the studiolo, see Leah R. Clark, "Collecting, Exchange, and Sociability in t (...)

27Placed in the setting of the apothecary shop, as represented in Avicenna’s manuscript (Figure 4), such drug jars and medicines could also be connected to knowledge in the form of news. Pharmacies or spezierie were known as sites of communication, where individuals went to not only purchase spices, but to socialise (including gambling), and were also understood as a place where spies and foreigners could convey news from the distant lands.66 Such spaces were the Renaissance version of the coffee house, identified famously in the work of Jürgen Habermas as central to the emergence of the modern public sphere.67 As Filippo de Vivo has argued, an apothecary shop’s value could lie in its identity as a place for “information exchange” where ambassadors frequented to obtain news, locals met to exchange gossip, and where various social classes intersected, providing a cross-pollination of knowledge in the “protracted conversation of strangers”.68 As a site where foreign spices and other commerce from the far corners of the world were traded and bought, it is no surprise that the apothecary and the associated jars became signs of news and knowledge. The interior responded to the needs of socialising, and could be quite well furnished and comfortable, particularly because some customers might indeed be patients, who would need to sit down to receive diagnosis or treatments such as blood letting. By the end of the sixteenth century and into the seventeenth century, as is well known, many apothecary shops became theatrical displays of naturalia and artificialia, cabinets of curiosities made famous by printed illustrations, such as the collections of Ferrante Imperato in Naples or Calzolari in Verona.69 In the courtly setting, the spezieria while not such a public space, was in close proximity to others rooms, and could be shown off to visitors. At the court of Naples for example, in the Castel Capuano, the residence of Eleonora’s brother, Alfonso d’Aragona and his wife, Ippolita Sforza, the Duke and Duchess of Calabria, the spezieria was situated above one of the studioli, creating a direct link between collecting, knowledge, display, and sociability.70

Conclusion

28Placed within the home, objects such as albarelli, water buckets, and incense burners activated social or religious rituals, engendering a multisensorial environment. Albarelli contained aromatics and spices that were used in tandem with other objects in the house. The water buckets carrying holy water were used with sprinklers to spray on household items such as beds to ward off evil spirits or used in front of religious images in the home. Those very religious images might depict similar objects within the fictional biblical space: albarelli often graze the shelves of the Virgin’s home, while vessels for washing can be found in Maundy Thursday scenes. The evocation of the medicinal qualities of these objects is evident in the albarello carefully rendered in the Portinari altarpiece, poignant in its hospital setting.

  • 71 An argument successfully articulated in Rodini, art. cit.

29The vessels used to house spices, herbs, and aromatics discussed in this study have been examined as “objets croisés”, composite objects that reflect the criss-crossing of cultural encounters. These case studies have not been examined simply in terms of “hybridity”, which often assumes two cultural traditions as distinct, or in terms of a beginning and an end in terms of influence and adaptation, or solely as a form of consumption where the objects are simply understood as signs of wealth. Rather, this study has argued that these objects are better understood when mobility and travel are considered as intrinsic to their value and linked to larger cultural processes of exchange, circulation, and use.71

  • 72 Quoted and translated in De Vivo, art. cit. p. 512.

30The circulation of goods, and the cross-pollination of cultural motifs and practices, gives rise to both fruitful interchanges but also mistrust and hostility. In our own contemporary predicament, the movement of goods can be facilitated by open trade deals and the free movement of people, which inspires new creative possibilities but also fear regarding the loss or destruction of perceived “cultural norms”. The early modern apothecary shop can be seen as a metaphor for the complexities of the circulation of goods. In the words of Lepido Barbaran, the son of the apothecary at the Saracen in 1606, explaining the activities taking place in his shop: “We discuss the affairs of the world, the wars as well as the present troubles […] words vary, as opinions do, […] people discuss the reasons of one side and the other.”72 Apothecary shops could be places to cure the sick, purchase spices from the East in beautifully decorated albarelli, receive news, and could operate as venues for democratic debate, but they could just as easily be places of trouble, where gambling took place, spies exchanged elicit news, poisonous medicines were disguised in alluring containers, and strangers were encountered and confronted.

31Mamluk metalwork and albarelli convey the complexities of trying to disentangle origins and provenance for objects that reveal the close production and transfer of materials and motifs across the Mediterranean and further afield. The trade in spices signals larger cross-cultural trade and diplomatic networks, while the ceramics and metalware that contained those spices, appearing on shelves in apothecaries and in homes, were composite objects. The decorations on these vessels reveal complex patterns of imitation, borrowing, and translation, reflecting histoires croisées, whereby persons, practices, and objects are intertwined, affected by, and contribute to intercultural dialogues and processes.

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Notes

1 Anthony Ray, “The Rothschild ‘Alfabeguer’ and Other Fifteenth-Century Spanish Lustred ‘Basil-Pots’”, The Burlington Magazine, 142, n° 1167, 2000, p. 371-375; al-Islāmī Matḥaf al-Fann, Oliver Watson, and Hubert Bari (eds.), Beyond Boundaries: Islamic Art Across Cultures, Doha, Qatar, Museum of Islamic Art, 2008, Cat. 64.

2 Ibid., p. 371.

3 Lieselotte E. Saurma-Jeltsch, “Introduction: About the Agency of Things, of Objects and Artefacts”, in The Power of Things and the Flow of Cultural Transformations. Art and Culture Between Europe and Asia, eds. Lieselotte E. Saurma-Jeltsch and Anja Eisenbess, Berlin, Deutscher Kunstverlag, 2010, p. 10-22.

4 Michael North (ed.), Artistic and Cultural Exchanges between Europe and Asia, 1400-1900, Farnham and Burlington, Ashgate, 2010.

5 Michael Werner and Bénédicte Zimmermann, “Beyond Comparison: Histoire Croisée and the Challenge of Reflexivity”, History and Theory, 45, 1, 2006, p. 30-50.

6 Susanna Burghartz, Lucas Burkart, and Christine Göttler (eds), Sites of Mediation: Connected Histories of Places, Processes, and Objects in Europe and Beyond, 1450–1650, Leiden, Brill, 2016.

7 Jerry Brotton, The Renaissance Bazaar. From the Silk Road to Michelangelo, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2002; Anna Contadini, “Translocation and Transformation: Some Middle Eastern Objects in Europe”, in Lieselotte E. Saurma-Jeltsch and Anja Eisenbess (eds), op. cit., p. 42-64; Anna Contadini, “Sharing a Taste?: Material Acquisitions and Intellectual Curiosity around the Mediterranean, from the Eleventh to the Sixteenth Century”, in The Renaissance and the Ottoman World, Claire Norton and Anna Contadini (eds), Farnham and Burlington, Ashgate, 2013, p. 23-61; Anne Gerritsen and Giorgio Riello, “Spaces of Global Interactions: The Material Landscapes of Global History”, in Writing Material Culture History, London, Bloomsbury, 2015, p. 111-134; Lisa Jardine, Worldly Goods: A New History of the Renaissance, London, Macmillan, 1996; Lisa Jardine and Jerry Brotton, Global Interests. Renaissance Art Between East and West, Ithaca, Cornell University Press, 2000; Rosamond E. Mack, Bazaar to Piazza. Islamic Trade and Italian Art, 1300-1600, Berkeley, Los Angeles and London, University of California Press, 2002; Meredith Martin and Daniela Bleichmar, “Objects in Motion in the Early Modern World”, Art History 38.4, 2015, p. 604-619; Luca Mola and Marta Ajmar-Wollheim, “The Global Renaissance: Cross-cultural Objects in the Early Modern Period” in Glenn Adamson, Giorgio Riello, and Sarah Teasley (eds), Global Design History, New York, Routledge, 2011, p. 11-20; Peter Burke, “Translating Knowledge, Translating Cultures” in Michael North (ed.), Kultureller Austausch: Bilanz und Perspektiven der Frühneuzeitforschung, Cologne, Böhlau Verlag, 2009, p. 69-80.

8 Avinoam Shalem, “Dangerous Claims On the ‘Othering’ of Islamic Art History and How it Operates within Global Art History”, Kritische Berichte. Zeitschrift für Kunst- und Kulturwissenschaften, 2, 2012, p. 69-86; Thomas DaCosta Kaufmann, Catherine Dossin, and Béatrice Joyeux-Prunel, Circulations in the Global History of Art, London, Routledge, 2016; Barry Flood et al., “Roundtable: The Global Before Globalization”, October, 133, 2010, p. 3-19. Carolyn Dean and Dana Leibsohn, “Hybridity and Its Discontents: Considering Visual Culture in Colonial Spanish America”, Colonial Latin American Review, 12.1, 2003, p. 5-35.

9 For a study that really opens up these questions for the field, see Elizabeth Rodini, “Mobile Things: On the Origins and the Meanings of Levantine Objects in Early Modern Venice”, Art History, http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/1467-8365.12332/abstract 2017 (accessed 3 February 2018).

10 Rodini, art. cit.. For language and inventories, see Leah R. Clark, “The Peregrinations of Porcelain: The Collections of Duchess Eleonora d’Aragona of Ferrara”, Journal of the History of Collections, 2019, https://doi.org/10.1093/jhc/fhy063 (accessed 3 August 2019)

11 Mack, op. cit., p. 97.

12 Mack, op. cit., 108.

13 John Carswell, Iznik Pottery, London, British Museum Press, 1998.

14 Albarello, earthenware, Iznik 'Golden Horn' style, 1550-1600, Genoa, British Museum, 990,0502.1.

15 Mack, op. cit., p. 51.

16 Alicia Walker, “Meaningful Mingling: Classicizing Imagery and Islamicizing Script in a Byzantine Bowl”, The Art Bulletin, 90.1, 2008, p. 32-53.

17 The Tacuinum Sanitatis, for example, derived from a work in Arabic by Ibn Butlan el Bagdadi, translated into Latin in the thirteenth century in Naples or Sicily. Representations of apothecary shops figure into illuminations of this work. Brucia Witthoft, “The Tacuinum Sanitatis: A Lombard Panorama”, Gesta, 17.1, 1978, p. 49-60. For the practices of apothecaries and the combination of both modern and ancient practices, see Valentina Pugliano, “Pharmacy, Testing, and the Language of Truth in Renaissance Italy”, Bulletin of the History of Medicine, 91.2, 2017, p. 233-273.

18 Paul Freedman, “Spices and Late-Medieval European Ideas of Scarcity and Value”, Speculum, 80.4, 2005, p. 1209-1227.

19 Patrick Wallis, “Consumption, Retailing, and Medicine in Early-Modern London”, The Economic History Review, 61, 1, 2008, p. 26-53.

20 Laughran, art. cit., p. 95-107.

21 There is evidence that women ran pharmacies within the city, see Alice Frothingham Wilson, “Apothecaries’ Shops”, Notes Hispanic, New York, Hispanic Society of America, 1941, p. 101-124. But there were of course the well-known spezieria overseen by nuns, see Sharon T. Strocchia, “The Nun Apothecaries of Renaissance Florence: Marketing Medicines in the Convent”, Renaissance Studies, 25, 2011, p. 627-647.

22 Description of contents from inventories can be found in Evelyn S. Welch, “Space and Spectacle in the Renaissance Pharmacy”, Medicina e Storia, 15, 2008, p. 127-158. See also Marco Spallanzani, Ceramiche orientali a Firenze nel Rinascimento, Florence, Cassa di Risparmio di Firenze, 1978; James E. Shaw and Evelyn S. Welch, Making and Marketing Medicine in Renaissance Florence, Amsterdam and New York, Rodopi, 2011.

23 “quei bussolotti, quegli albarelli, e quelle scatole che con lettere maiuscole e grosse, e alludono talora a mille unguenti o confezioni o aromati preziosi, e nondimeno sono vacui di dentro, portando lo soprascritto ridicoloso di fuori.” Quoted and translated in Welch, art. cit., p. 137.

24 Quoted and translated in Welch, art. cit., p. 146.

25 Quoted in ibid., p. 145. For early modern pharmacies and their practices see Jean-Pierre Bénézet and Jean Flahaut, Pharmacie et médicament en Méditerranée occidentale (XIIIe-XVIe siècles), Paris, 1999; David Gentilcore, Healers and Healing in Early Modern Italy, Manchester, 1998; Sandra Cavallo and David Gentilcore (eds), Spaces, Objects and Identities in Early Modern Italian Medicine, Oxford, Blackwell, 2007.

26 “littere sacre or siano syrie o babilonice”, Alexander Nagel, Some Discoveries of 1492: Eastern Antiquities and Renaissance Europe, Groningen, The University of Groningen Lectures, 2013.

27 Walker, art. cit., p. 47.

28 “Illustrissima et Excelentisima Madona, per el portatore di questa, ch’è mio fratelo, mando uno piccolo presente a quela, ch’è una corona de paternostri […describes some other objects he is sending with the money she had sent him] Mio fatelo porta uno vaso grande damaschino con belisima forma molta bela e ben intaiado e con certe letre grande ala morescha, le pù bele che abia maie visto[…] E ancora n’ò uno altro vaso menore con el covergo - se quela lo vorà, lo mandarò, - lavorado a quela foza ma lavore moderno, pura de mano del meliore maestro che sia a Damascho. […] Adì ultimo marzo del […]1511. Vostro Laurentio da Pavia in Venecia. […]”, Clifford M. Brown, Isabella d'Este and Lorenzo da Pavia: Documents for the History of Art and Culture in Renaissance Mantua, Geneva, Librairie Droz, 1982.

29 Rodini, op. cit., p. 7. So-called “Veneto-Saracenic” metalware has raised a lot of questions around the provenance of manufacture, see Anna Contadini, “Threads of Ornament in the Style World of the Fifteenth and Sixteenth Centuries,” in Gülru Necipoglu and Alina Payne (eds), Histories of Ornament: From Global to Local, Princeton, Princeton University Press, 2016, p. 290-308. Marco Spallanzani, Metalli islamici a Firenze nel Rinascimento, Florence, 2010. Sylvia Auld, Renaissance Venice, Islam and Mahmud the Kurd: A Metalworking Enigma, London, Altajir World Of Islam Trust, 2004; Sylvia Auld, “Master Mahmud and Inlaid Metalwork in the 15th Century” in Stefano Carboni (ed.), Venice and the Islamic World, 828-1797, New York, New Haven and London, The Metropolitan Museum of Art and Yale University Press, 2007, p. 212-25; Mack, op. cit., p.142-143; Doris Behrens-Abouseif, "Veneto-Saracenic Metalware," Mamluk Studies Review, 9.2, 2005, p. 147-172.

30 Brown, Isabella d'Este, p. 247-250.

31 Alessandro Luzio, Isabella d'Este e il sacco di Roma, Milano, L.F. Cogliati, 1908. Also see Geraldine A Johnson, “In the Hand of the Beholder: Isabella d'Este and the Sensual Allure of Sculpture” in Alice Sanger and Siv Tove Kulbrandstad Walker (eds), Sense and the Senses in Early Modern Art and Cultural Practice, Farnham, Ashgate, 2012, p. 183-197.

32 There are a number of entries for Isabella d’Este, see, Archivio di Stato di Modena Spezieria (hereafter ASMO SPEZ) 3, 14R, 19R, 20R.

33 Anna Contadini, “Middle-Eastern Objects” in Marta Ajmar-Wollheim and Flora Dennis (eds), At Home in Renaissance Italy, London, Victoria & Albert Museum, 2006, p. 308-321.

34 Adolfo Venturi, "L'arte Ferrarese nel period d'Ercole I d'Este I," Deputazione di storia patria per l'Emilia e la Romagna III. VI, 1888, p. 91-119.

35 For the circulation and exchange of medicine and spices and their functions, see Harold J. Cook and Timothy D. Walker, "Circulation of Medicine in the Early Modern Atlantic World," Social History of Medicine 26.3, 2013, p. 337-351.

36 Mack, op. cit, p. 23; Doris Behrens-Abouseif, Practising Diplomacy in the Mamluk Sultanate. Gifts and Material Culture in the Medieval Islamic World, London and New York, I.B. Taurus, 2014.

37 "cose odorifere, in begli vasegli alla moresca; e fiaschi pieni di balsam, e un bello e grande paviglione vergato alla moresca, che si distese, e vidilo." Quoted in Patrizia Meli, "Firenze di fronte al mondo islamico. Documenti su due ambasciate (1487-1489)", Annali di Storia di Firenze IV 2009, p. 243-273.

38 " Un bel cavallo baio; animali strani, montoni e pecore di vari colori con orecchi lunghi sino alle spalle, et code in terra grosse quasi quanto el corpo; una grande ampulla di balsam; II. corni di zibetto; bongivi et legno aloe quato può portare una persona; vasi grandi di porcellana mai più veduti simili, né meglio lavorati; drappi di più colori per pezza; tele bambagine assai, che lor chiamano turbanti, finissimi; tele assai colla salda, che lor chiamano sexe, vasi grandi di confectione, mirabolani et giengiotuo." Quoted in Laurie Fusco and Gino Corti, Lorenzo de’ Medici: Collector and Antiquarian, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 2006, p. 78, 302, doc 87. 2006. Behrens-Abouseif, op. cit., 113, 203, fn 77.

39 Anthony Grafton, Commerce with the Classics: Ancient Books and Renaissance Readers, Ann Arbor, The University of Michigan Press, 1997.

40 Jeffrey L. Collins and Meredith Martin, “Early Modern Incense Boats: Commerce, Christianity, and Cultural Exchange,” in Christine Göttler and Mia M. Mochizuki (eds),The Nomadic Object: The Challenge of World for Early Modern Religious Art, Boston, Brill, 2017, p. 513-546.

41 Nina Ergin, "The Fragrance of the Divine: Ottoman Incense Burners and Their Context," The Art Bulletin, 96.1, 2014, p. 70-97. Joachim Meyer, Sensual Delights: Incense Burners and Rosewater Sprinklers from the World of Islam, translated by Martha Gaber Abrahamsen, Copenhagen, The David Collection, 2015.

42 Ergin, art.cit., p. 74.

43 Guido Donatone, Maioliche napoletane della spezieria aragonese di Castelnuovo, Naples, L. Regina,1970.

44 ASMO Speziaria 1 16V, 46V

45 ASMO Guardaroba (hereafter G) 114 105R, 107R, 149R. For her porcelain collection see Clark, “Peregrinations of Porcelain”, art.cit.. For her art collection see Leah R. Clark, Collecting Art in the Italian Renaissance Court: Objects and Exchanges, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 2018.

46 Meyer, op. cit., p. 10-11.

47 Shaw and Welch, op.cit., p. 252.

48 Andrea Russo, L'arte degli speziali in Napoli, Naples, A.E. Vitolo, 1966.

49 Caroline Corisande Anderson, “The Material Culture of Domestic Religion in Early Modern Florence, c. 1480-c. 1650” (PhD Thesis, The University of York, 2007), p. 14-21.

50 Ibid., p. 21-28.

51 Anna Contadini, op.cit., p. 308-321.

52 Ibid., p. 313-4.

53 ASMO Amministrazione de Principi (hereafter AP) 638 16R-16V.

54 Uno sechielo da ottone cum dui pipij per dare laqua ale mano” ASMO G 114 127V.

55 ASMO G 114 149R-151V.

56 ASMO AP 638 7V, 97V.

57 ASMO AP 638. For a discussion of these books, see Clark, op.cit, Introduction.

58 “bevande prservatrici del contagion a base di rose, cicorie, sedani e fiori di cedrangoli.” Quoted in Russo, op. cit., p. 19. Also see Donatone, op.cit, p. 35-36.

59 “vasi b.[ianch]a. lavorati de turchino” ASMO SPEZ 2, 2V.

60 Alessandro Ballarin, Il camerino delle pitture di Alfonso I. Vol. I, Padua, Bertoncello, 2002.

61 The Antonelli papers also still contain the inventory of the porcelain room, indicating the shelves they were found on and giving us an idea of the organization of the room, something omitted from Cittadella’s transcription. Biblioteca Aristoea Antonelli, 963, VI.

62 Patricia Aakhus, "Astral Magic in the Renaissance: Gems, Poetry, and Patronage of Lorenzo de' Medici," Magic, Ritual, and Witchcraft, 3.2, 2008, p. 185-206.

63 Marsilio Ficino, Three Books on Life. A Critical Edition and Translation with Introduction and Notes, ed. Carol V. Kaske and John R. Clark, Binghamton, Medieval and Renaissance Texts & Studies, 1989.

64 Shaw and Welch, op.cit., p. 249.

65 Julia I. Miller, "Miraculous Childbirth and the Portinari Altarpiece," The Art Bulletin 77.2, 1995, p. 249-261.

66 Welch, art. cit., p. 127-158; Filippo De Vivo, "Pharmacies as Centres of Communication in Early Modern Venice", Renaissance Studies 21. 4, 2007, p. 505-521.

67 Jürgen Habermas, “The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere: An Inquiry into a Category of Bourgeois Society” in Craig Calhoun (ed.), Habermas and the Public Sphere, Cambridge and London, The MIT Press, 1992, p. 3-55. For early modern publics see Bronwen Wilson and Paul Yachnin (eds), Making Publics in Early Modern Europe: People, Things, Forms of Knowledge, New York, Routledge, 2009; Angela Vanhaelen and Joseph Ward (eds), Making Space Public in Early Modern Europe: Geography, Performance, Privacy, New York, Routledge, 2013.

68 De Vivo, art. cit., p. 511.

69 Paula Findlen, Possessing Nature: Museums, Collecting and Scientific Culture in Early Modern Italy, Berkeley, Los Angeles and London, University of California Press, 1994; Paula Findlen, “Inventing Nature: Commodities, Art, and Science in the Early Modern Cabinets of Curiosities,” in Pamela H. Smith and Paula Findlen (eds), Merchants and Marvels. Commerce, Science, and Art in Early Modern Europe, New York and London, Routledge, 2002, p. 297-323.

70 For the sociability of the studiolo, see Leah R. Clark, "Collecting, Exchange, and Sociability in the Renaissance Studiolo," Journal of the History of Collections, 25.2, 2013, p. 171-184.

71 An argument successfully articulated in Rodini, art. cit.

72 Quoted and translated in De Vivo, art. cit. p. 512.

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Table des illustrations

Légende Fig. 1: Basil pot 1440-1470, tin-glazed earthenware, metallic lustre. Accepted in lieu of Inheritance Tax by H M Government and allocated to the National Trust for Waddesdon Manor, 2016, acc no: 10287. Photo: Waddesdon Image Library, Mike Fear
URL http://journals.openedition.org/episteme/docannexe/image/6292/img-1.png
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Légende Fig. 2: Drug jar (albarello) painted in blue, Damascus (?), Syria, first half of the fifteenth century, Musée des Arts Décoratifs, Paris.
URL http://journals.openedition.org/episteme/docannexe/image/6292/img-2.jpg
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Légende Fig. 3: Page from the “Canon of Medicine” by Avicenna (Ibn Sina), fifteenth century. Biblioteca Universitaria di Bologna, ms. 2197. Credit: Bridgeman Images
URL http://journals.openedition.org/episteme/docannexe/image/6292/img-3.png
Fichier image/png, 1,7M
Légende Fig. 4: Florentine drug jar (albarello), tin-glazed earthenware, mid-fifteenth century, Victoria and Albert Museum, 1147-1904
URL http://journals.openedition.org/episteme/docannexe/image/6292/img-4.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 376k
Légende Fig. 5: Valencian (Manises) drug jar (albarello), tin-glazed earthenware, 1375-1400, Victoria and Albert Museum, 488-1864
URL http://journals.openedition.org/episteme/docannexe/image/6292/img-5.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 300k
Légende Fig. 6: (top left) Ottoman bottle, Iznik, glazed pottery, 1529, British Museum, G.16
URL http://journals.openedition.org/episteme/docannexe/image/6292/img-6.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 80k
Légende Fig. 7: (above) Tughra (Insignia) of Sultan Süleiman the Magnificent, Ink, opaque watercolor, and gold on paper, 1555-1560, Metropolitan Museum of Art, Rogers Fund, 1938, 38.149.2
URL http://journals.openedition.org/episteme/docannexe/image/6292/img-7.jpg
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URL http://journals.openedition.org/episteme/docannexe/image/6292/img-8.jpg
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Légende Fig. 9: Valencian (Manises) drug jar (albarello) with content sign, tin-glazed earthenware, sixteenth century, Metropolitan Museum of Art, Bequest of George Blumenthal, 1941, 41.190.225
URL http://journals.openedition.org/episteme/docannexe/image/6292/img-9.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 660k
Légende Fig. 10: Basin of Sultan Qaytbay, Brass inlaid with silver, Egypt or Syria, ca. 1468–96, Metropolitan Museum of Art, Metropolitan Museum of Art, 91.1.565
URL http://journals.openedition.org/episteme/docannexe/image/6292/img-10.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 1,4M
Légende Fig. 11: Lidded Bowl, Brass inlaid with silver, Damascus?, 1500-1550, Victoria and Albert Museum, 841&A-1891
URL http://journals.openedition.org/episteme/docannexe/image/6292/img-11.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 280k
Légende Fig. 12: Venetian/Syrian? Perfume burner, c. 1450-1500, Brass, pierced, engraved and silver damascened with black lacquer infill, Syria or Venice, Victoria and Albert Museum, M.58-1952
URL http://journals.openedition.org/episteme/docannexe/image/6292/img-12.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 68k
Légende Fig. 13: Water bucket, Egypt or Syria, fifteenth century, brass and damascened with silver, Galleria Estense, Modena, inv. 2074. Photo by the author
URL http://journals.openedition.org/episteme/docannexe/image/6292/img-13.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 5,5M
Légende Fig. 14: Bronze mortar, Middle East, 1501-1800. Science Museum, London. CC © The Board of Trustees of the Science Museum
URL http://journals.openedition.org/episteme/docannexe/image/6292/img-14.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 1,8M
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Référence électronique

Leah R. Clark, « Objets croisés: Albarelli as Vessels of Mediation Within and Beyond the Spezieria »Études Épistémè [En ligne], 36 | 2019, mis en ligne le 09 mars 2020, consulté le 26 mai 2020. URL : http://journals.openedition.org/episteme/6292; DOI: https://doi.org/10.4000/episteme.6292

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Auteur

Leah R. Clark

Dr Leah R. Clark is a Senior Lecturer in Art History at the Open University, UK. Her publications include Collecting Art in the Italian Renaissance Court: Objects and Exchanges (Cambridge University Press, 2018), European Art and the Wider World, 1350-1550, co-edited with Kathleen Christian (Manchester University Press, 2017), as well as a number of articles and book chapters. She has received awards and fellowships from a variety of institutions including the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, the Arts and Humanities Research Council, and the British Academy.

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