Art/ Collection/ Art Object
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Covered jar

Date:
ca. 1675–1700
Geography:
Made in Tonalá, Mexico
Culture:
Mexican
Medium:
Earthenware, burnished, with white paint and silver leaf
Dimensions:
27 3/4 in. (70.5 cm)
Classification:
Ceramics
Credit Line:
Sansbury-Mills Fund, 2015
Accession Number:
2015.45.2a, b
On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 749
Ceramic vessels of this type, known as búcaros de Indias, were highly prized by European collectors during the 17th and 18th centuries. They were appreciated not only for their exotic shapes and New World origin, but also for the distinctive aroma and taste of the clay from which they were made. Búcaros were used to contain water and gave it a pleasing flavor. The clay was thought to have medicinal qualities and it was fashionable among Spanish and Italian elites, especially women, to consume fragments of the pottery. This unusual practice made their complexions pale which was considered desirable at the time.

The popularity of this kind of pottery in Europe during the 17th and 18th centuries is well documented in the art and literature of the period. The infanta Margarita in Diego Velázquez’s Las Meninas is served a small búcaro of water on a silver tray and artists like Tomás Hiepes and Juan van der Hamen included búcaros in their still life paintings. Lope de Vega and other Spanish Golden Age authors wrote satirically about the obsessive eating of pottery and its effects.

"Girl of broken color, either you have lovers, or you eat clay." (Niña de color quebrado / O tienes amores o comes barro.) Lope de Vega, El Acero de Madrid (1608)
Marquises Bourbon del Monte di Sorbello, Palazzo Sorbello, Perugia; by descent to Prof. Ruggero Ranieri, Perugia (1952- ), until 2013; E & H Manners, London
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