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Lidded jug or flagon

This fritware jug with ‘sealing-wax’ red hyacinths and blue pomegranates was made in Iznik (Ottoman Anatolia) and exported to Elizabethan London where, in 1592/3, it was fitted with fashionable edge-protecting silver-gilt mounts. Ewer shaped, it was actually meant for consuming ale or beer: as a French visitor remarked in 1558, the English drank beer ‘not out of glasses but from earthen pots with silver handles and covers & this even in houses of persons of middling fortune’. Iznik ware examples such as this were expensive luxury items used only by the upper classes. The less affluent had to make do with German stoneware imports or English earthenware ones. The handle-mount has been pricked with the letters ‘E T’, almost certainly the initials of Elizabeth Tollemache, Countess of Dysart (1626–98). She may have inherited the jug from her father, William Murray (c.1600–55) along with the family home, Ham House, where it remained a treasured possession until 1948.

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