Pilgrim Flask

Object Details


Pilgrim Flask


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




Florence, Tuscany, Italy (Place created)




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
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    Audio: Pilgrim Flask / blue and white