1885M1565 Drug Jar, St George and the Dragon, 1550-60 Maiolica, tin glazed and painted earthenware. Italy, Ravenna, Faenza
The material used to make this drug jar is known in Italy as maiolica. It is earthenware with a thick, opaque white surface called tin glaze. Maiolica was one of the first ceramics to be used specifically as a vehicle for painted decoration, either in lustre or in painted enamels. As a branch of pottery manufacture, maiolica was established in the northern half of Italy by the mid-15th century when the pots were often decorated with bold patterns in green and purple. As the industry developed throughout Italy, characteristic shapes emerged, amongst them drug jars like this used for display in pharmacies. This jar has an image of Saint George and the Dragon. According to legend, a pagan town of Libya was being terrorised by a dragon. The dragon was not satisfied with the sheep the town's people were offering it. They started to offer it people which began to subdue the dragon. When it came to the turn of the local princess to be sacrificed to the dragon, Saint George came by on his horse, slaughtered the dragon and rescued the princess. In their gratitude the town's people converted to George's religion of Christianity.