A Wonderful Early 18thC Delftware Dry Drug Jar; For Ointment of Nicotiana


Origin: English
Period: Early Eighteenth Century
Provenance: Unknown
Date: c.1720-40
Circumference: 19.5 inches (at maximum)
Height: 7.75 inches

The delftware drug or ointment jar typically painted in blue depicting two birds either side of a decorated cartouche consisting of a basket of fruit above the inscription 'U: NICOTIAN,' surviving from the first half of the eighteenth century.

The condition of the vessel is fair. There are several losses to the glaze with chips and cracks as per the photographs though the jar is in sound structural condition and it remains beautifully decorative. There are solid remains to the interior, probably of the original substance.

Ointment of Nicotiana, or ungentum nicotininia, was a tobacco based salve and had a variety of uses, but was primarily employed in eighteenth century England as a treatment for burns and boils, clearing lice, curing tumors and bringing up phlegm. Originally taken from a ‘Dispensory of Laurentius Jobertus’ this ointment instructions read ‘take of the depurated juice of tobacco, of fresh hog’s lard diligently washed, of each one pound, and boil them together to the consumption of the juice, then add of Venice turpentine, four ounces, and of round birthwort in powder, two ounces; and make them into an ointment’.

English delftware is tin-glazed pottery made in the British Isles between about 1550 and the late 18th century. The main centres of production were London, Bristol and Liverpool with smaller centres at Wincanton, Glasgow and Dublin. In the 17th and 18th centuries wealthy apothecaries stored their medicinal preparations and ingredients in tin-glazed jars. With their decorative Latin labels naming their contents, the jars were functional, attractive and fashionable, designed to impress customers and fellow medical practitioners.

This jar remains just that; functional, attractive and fashionable, nigh on three hundred years since its creation.