German, Frechen - Greybeard Jug, early 17th century

German, Frechen

Greybeard Jug (Bartmannkrüge), early 17th century

Salt-glazed stoneware, 43.2 cm (17 in.)

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Object details

Accession number

C21s8

Provenance

Probably owned by a Mr. Dassett, about 1700.
Probably purchased by Isabella Stewart Gardner from the contractor and real estate agency Martin Hayes Co., Boston, about 1872-1880.

Bibliography

Gilbert Wendel Longstreet and Morris Carter. General Catalogue (Boston, 1935), pp. 186-87. (as German, Grenzhausen ware, dated early 18th century)
Rollin van N. Hadley. “Notes, Records, Comments.” Gardner Museum Calendar of Events 8, no. 14 (6 Dec. 1964), p. 2.
Lucie B. Beebe. "A Graybeard Jug at Fenway Court." Fenway Court (1981), pp. 26-33, figs. 1-4. (as Frechen, dated 17th century)
Edward S. Cooke, Jr. Inventing Boston: Design, Production, and Consumption (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2019), pp. 131-32, fig. 143. (as Frechen, dated ca. 1660)


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Commentary

Nicknamed "Greybeard Jugs" for their caricature-like masks, these seventeenth-century stoneware bottles produced in northern Europe were popular containers for liquids thanks to their impervious salt glaze.  Brought across the Atlantic during the Revolutionary War, this pot was discovered by a Boston construction firm in the 1870s while digging foundations on the former site of the Brattle Square Church (today City Hall), a building occupied by British troops in 1775.  Here in the Dutch Room, elevated on a cabinet into the array of distinguished portraits, the hairy, wild man pokes fun at the serious aristocrats he accompanies.

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