University Museums

Title: Pilgrim bottle / scent bottle
Name: Pilgrim bottle / scent bottle
Date: c. 1710-1715
Medium: Stoneware
Country/Culture: German
Dimensions: 3 5/8 × 2 × 1 in. (9.2 × 5.1 × 2.5 cm)
Classification: Decorative Arts, Ceramics
Credit Line: Gift of Ann and Henry Brunnier. In the Ann and Henry Brunnier Collection, Brunnier Art Museum, University Museums, Iowa State University, Ames, Iowa.
Object Number: 2.6.2
More Information
In 1708 Johann Friedrich Bottger, an alchemist in the Saxon court of Augustus the Strong, was experimenting to fine the secret to making true hard- paste porcelain similar to that produced in China and Japan. During these experiments, Bottger and his associate, Ehrenfried Walther von Tschirnhausen, developed a hard reddish-brown stoneware. It became an immediate commercial success and continued to be produced for a number of years, even after the discovery of hard-paste porcelain in Europe. One of the most attractive of ceramic materials and a technical marvel, the stoneware is so hard that it could be polished on the lapidary's wheel.

The pilgrim bottle in form can be traced to ancient Rome, originally made to be carried during travel. The flat shape made it more practical for carrying on journeys, since it was usually slung from a saddle or shoulder by a rope or strap passed through the slots on each side. By the sixteenth century, pilgrim bottles of silver or fine ceramic material, such as this one, were produced for more decorative than practical purposes. In fact, most form made of Bottger's red stoneware were drawn from silver because the clay was exceptionally plastic and lent itself to applied decoration in silversmith’s style, such as the two women's heads on either side of the bottle seen here.

The pilgrim bottle was used to hold or dispense perfumes or precious oils or fluids.