Out On Display #13: ‘Nice Jugs’
Red earthenware with applied and incised decoration and traces of glazing
late 13th or early 14th century
On display in room 10A
Vessels depicting human characteristics have been produced for centuries. This early example of a ‘face jar’ is unusual for being decorated with both male and female features.
The clay has been pulled outwards to resemble female breasts with protruding nipples and the face has a beard made from a strip of applied clay.
This unexpected combination of genders was likely intended to cause surprised amusement at the dining table or drinking establishment as the jug was displayed and used.
Buff earthenware with coloured glazes
France (La Chapelle des Pots)
Early 17th century
On display in room 137
Vessels designed to entertain or puzzle guests were particularly popular during the 17th and 18th centuries. The suggestive position of the spout in relation to the female-presenting figure on this 17th-century jug was quite deliberate.
The combining of different gender traits like this was often found presented for the purpose of comic or sexual innuendo.
However crude their initial intention, today objects like this can be seen to demonstrate a long history of playful challenges to the notion of binary gender.