On view at The Met Cloisters in Gallery 16

Pitchers with exaggeratedly tall necks, beaklike spouts, and large heavy handles were common in fifteenth-century Spain. This unusually large pitcher, probably made in Manises, the principal center of Spanish lusterware throughout the fifteenth century, holds almost eight quarts, and is a rare example of earthenware technique. Although pitchers were common items of tableware, this particular example, when full, would have been much too heavy to wield conveniently. It therefore might have been used for dispensing wine or water to smaller table pitchers, or for serving wine at large banquets. Its large size and ornamentation have also made it a valuable decorative piece, which perhaps explains its fine state of preservation. The decoration, which includes patterns of pseudo-Kufic script, points to the Muslim origin of all Spanish lusterware. The technique, which originated in the Near East, found its way into Andalusia by the tenth century. By the fifteenth century, piracy and the wars with the Christians had prompted many craftsmen to move northward into the region of Valencia, where all artisans, whether Muslims, Mudejares (Muslims living under a Christian king), or Christians, were allowed to work, and where ships sailed freely to their Mediterranean markets, unhindered by pirates.

Pitcher, Tin-glazed earthenware, Spanish

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