The Bartmann Jugs of Georg Flegel
I must admit I knew nothing about Bartmann jugs until yesterday. The Bartmann jugs or “bearded man” jugs were produced primarily during the 16th and 17th centuries in the Rhineland. Produced from salt-glazed earthenware they were often used to hold beer and wine. Common amongst the various styles are the bearded face which adorns the neck.
German potters perfected earthenware by the mid-14th century. In the 15th century it was discovered that salt thrown into the kiln would produce a tight glaze with an orange peel character. Cologne originally produced large numbers of jugs but city official became concerned about the fumes and fire risks. With increased restrictions and taxes in the mid 16th century many potters left for the nearby town of Frechen.
These rugged jugs were used for both daily use, storage, and transportation. The Dutch East India company bought these jugs both for transporting goods but also to sell. These Bartmann jugs have been found all over the world including Jamestowne, Virginia. This piece is unique in that it bears the arms of a Tuscan family.
With English potters unable to produce earthenware of the same quality these jugs were imported large numbers for many centuries. The Cologne merchants established a trading post in London called the Steelyard. Between the 14th and 16th centuries most of the stoneware was sold through this post. By 1600 some 100,000 pieces a year were imported into London! By the end of trhe 17th century earthenware production had matured in England.
The Bartmann jugs painted by Georg Flegel contain oak leaves and acorns which are typical of pieces from Cologne. Professor David Gaimster, Director Hunterian Museum and Art Gallery, has dated this piece to 1520-1545. This is before the Cologne potters left for Frechen. For additional information on these pieces please refer to the Victoria and Albert Museum along with the Rhenish Ceramics Project.