Pilgrim Flask

Object Details


Pilgrim Flask


Medici Porcelain Factory (Italian, 1575 - early 17th century)






Soft-paste porcelain, underglaze blue decoration


26.4 x 18.7 x 4.8 cm (10 3/8 x 7 3/8 x 1 7/8 in.)

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This pilgrim flask, one of the rare porcelains produced in the Medici factory, is an example of the earliest porcelain made in Europe. By the late 1500s, maiolica wares had begun to decline in popularity among the affluent. In its place, soft-paste porcelain was invented, to satisfy consumers' demand for novelty and increasing passion for true porcelain from China.

An exceptionally beautiful piece, the Getty Museum's flask is one of only about sixty remaining Medici porcelain pieces. It displays the finest qualities of the factory's production, including a translucent white body decorated with clear designs in underglaze blue.

Flasks of this kind were fashioned after vessels used by pilgrims and travelers to carry drinking water. This piece would have served simply for display as the applied side loops, in the form of grotesque masks, would never have suspended the vessel from a pilgrim's shoulder. The arabesque patterns and stylized floral decoration--including rose, carnation, tulip, and palmette motifs--imitate Chinese porcelain as well as Turkish ceramic wares from around 1500.

- 1857

William Blundell Spence (Florence, Italy), Sold to A. Foresi, 1857.

1857 -

Alessandro Foresi (Florence, Italy)

Giovanni Freppa (Florence, Italy), Sold to E. Piot.

- 1860

Eugène Piot, French, 1812 - 1890 (Paris, France) [sold, Hôtel des Commissaires-Priseurs, Paris, March 19, 1860, lot 82, to Baron (Mayer) Alphonse de Rothschild.]

- 1905

Baron (Mayer) Alphonse de Rothschild, 1827 - 1905 (Paris, France), by descent to Edouard (Alphonse James) de Rothschild, 1905.


Baron Edouard (Alphonse James) de Rothschild, 1868 - 1949 (Paris, France), looted by the Nazis.

In the possession of the Nazis, restituted by the Allied Forces to the French government after the war.

French Government, Garde-Meuble National, restituted to Baron Edouard (Alphonse James) de Rothschild.

- 1949

Baron Edouard (Alphonse James) de Rothschild, 1868 - 1949 (Paris, France), by descent to Guy (Edouard Alphonse Paul) de Rothschild, 1949.

1949 -

Baron Baron Guy (Edouard Alphonse Paul) de Rothschild, born 1909 (Paris, France), sold to Curarrow Corporation N.V.

- 1986

Curarrow Corporation N.V. (Curacao, Antilles), sold to the J. Paul Getty Museum, 1986.

The Arts of Fire: Islamic Influences on the Italian Renaissance (May 4 to September 5, 2004)
  • The J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Center, (Los Angeles), May 4 to September 4, 2004

Jacquemart, Albert. "La porcelaine des Médicis." Gazette des beaux-arts 3 (December 1859), p. 276.

Jacquemart, Albert, and Edmond Le Blant. Histoire artistique: Industrielle et commerciale de la porcelaine (Paris, 1862), p. 644, no. 5.

Foresi, Alessandro. Sulle porcellane medicee: Lettera al barone di Monville (Florence, 1869), 15ff, p. 29 (erroneously lists Baron Gustave de Rothschild, Paris, as owner), reprint from Piovani Arlotto (July 1859).

Alfred Darcel. "Les faïences français et les porcelaines au Trocadéro." Gazette des beaux-arts 18 (November 1878), p. 762.

Davillier, Baron Jean Charles. Les Origines de la porcelaine en Europe (Paris, 1882), pp. 39-41, 114-15, no. 29.

Grollier, Charles de. Manuel de l'amateur de porcelaine (Paris, 1914), 1: no. 2309.

Ricci, Seymour de. "La porcelaine des Medicis." In Museo Internazionale delle Ceramiche: L'opera d'un decennio, 1908-1918 (Faenza, 1919), p. 29, no. 22 (also states erroneously that flask belonged to Gustave de Rothschild and was passed to his son, Robert).

Liverani, Giuseppe. Catalogo delle porcellane dei Medici (Faenza, 1936), p. 31, no. 28.

Lane, Arthur. Italian Porcelain (London, 1954), p. 5, pl. 3C.

"Acquisitions/1986." The J. Paul Getty Museum Journal 15 (1987), pp. 216-17, no. 115.

Hess, Catherine. Italian Maiolica: Catalogue of the Collections (Malibu: J. Paul Getty Museum, 1988), no. 36.

Le Corbellier, Clare. "A Medici Porcelain Pilgrim Flask." The J. Paul Getty Museum Journal 16 (1988), pp. 119-26.

The J. Paul Getty Museum Handbook of the Collections. 3rd ed. (Malibu: J. Paul Getty Museum, 1991), p. 205.

Mariaux, Pierre-Alain. La majolique: La faïence italienne et son décor dans les collections suisses, XV- XVIII siècles, exh. cat. (Geneva: Musée Historique de Lausanne, February 10-May 28, 1995), p. 118.

The J. Paul Getty Museum Handbook of the Collections. 4th ed. (Los Angeles: J. Paul Getty Museum, 1997), p. 244, ill.

Masterpieces of the J. Paul Getty Museum: Decorative Arts (Los Angeles: J. Paul Getty Museum, 1997), p. 27, no. 18.

Thornton, Peter. Form and Decoration: Innovation in the Decorative Arts, 1470-1870 (London, 1998), p. 29, pl. 47.

The J. Paul Getty Museum Handbook of the Collections. 6th ed. (Los Angeles: J. Paul Getty Museum, 2001), p. 244, ill.

Wilson, Gillian, and Catherine Hess. Summary Catalogue of European Decorative Arts in the J. Paul Getty Museum (Los Angeles: J. Paul Getty Museum, 2001), no. 374.

Coutts, Howard. The Art of Ceramics: European Ceramic Design 1500-1830 (New Haven, 2001), p. 38, fig. 48.

Hess, Catherine. Italian Ceramics: Catalogue of the J. Paul Getty Museum Collection (Los Angeles: J. Paul Getty Museum, 2002), pp. 198-203, no. 36.

Hess, Catherine, ed. The Arts of Fire: Islamic Influences on Glass and Ceramics of the Italian Renaissance, exh. cat. (Los Angeles: The J. Paul Getty Musuem, 2004), pp. 158-59, pl. 42.

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