Collection Online
Spouted pharmacy jar
earthenware (maiolica)
25.8 × 22.0 × 17.0 cm
Place/s of Execution
Castelli, Italy
Accession Number
International Decorative Arts
Credit Line
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Felton Bequest, 1906
This digital record has been made available on NGV Collection Online through the generous support of Digitisation Champion Ms Carol Grigor through Metal Manufactures Limited
Gallery location
Not on display
Physical description
Flat handle, curved spout, in shape of monster's neck and head, on front, two busts in two medallions.

This sixteenth-century spouted vessel involves an elaborate and risqué visual joke. The form of the spout is of a dragon or serpent. On either side of this spout there is a pair of portraits: a young woman in profile and an older man in three-quarter view. Paired portraits of a man and woman were commonly executed to commemorate marriages in Renaissance Italy. Out of this practice a satirical version of this genre developed that depicted clearly mismatched couples: a young woman and a much older man. Such depictions were intended to mock the egos of older men who took wives who were far too young. The artist who has decorated this jug has taken the satirical content a step further in a brilliant compositional stroke. By placing the portraits of the mismatched couple on either side of the spout decorated as a serpent, the artist is hinting at the source of the discord that is almost certainly going to afflict this relationship. The serpent of temptation, which saw Adam and Eve’s fall from grace, here seperates this couple; the phallic form of the spout drives home the nature of the temptation.