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Greybeard or Bellarmine Jug

Description:

A large 17th century Greyboard or Bellarmine jug with a bearded face detail on the neck. This jug was used to store wine right up unil it came to the museum in the 1960s.

 

During the 16th Century, applying decorations to jugs became increasingly popular. One type of jug in particular had a bearded man on its neck. These are known as Greybeards, and also as Bellarmines. It was believed that the bearded man represented the face of catholic inquisitor Robert Bellarmine however he was only 8 when these faces were first being put on jugs. It is more likely that the bearded man became a representation of the hate people felt for him, as the face on the Greybeard jugs became the centre of many jokes in taverns throughtout the period. The jugs were produced in different sizes throughout the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries. Smaller jugs were used widely in taverns and ale-houses while larger ones were used for storing wine and oils.

 

It was in the 17th century, when accusations of witchcraft were rife, that some of the jugs took on a different purpose. Many believed that the jugs could be used to protect against evil spirits and counteract spells cast by witches. They became popular "witch bottles," perhaps people believed that the embossed bearded face would scare away evil. The witch's bottle was usually filled with urine, nail clippings or hair of the suspected victim and would then be buried at the farthest corner of the property, beneath the house hearth, or placed in a subtle spot in the house.

Source:
Dumfries Museum & Camera Obscura
Accession number:
DUMFM1963.109
Digital Number:
DMDM130a-c
Copyright:
Dumfries and Galloway Council


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