Hellebore flowers, stars, winged hourglasses and masks: Masonic signs and symbols woven around the Castelli albarello. The complex and very rare iconography is a reference to the process of alchemy. Hellebore, a poisonous plant, can be used in medicine if highly diluted with spring water and transformed over a naked flame. The winged hourglass above the flame refers to the long time the chemist/pharmacist has to wait patiently by the flame when preparing the recipe. The moon, sited on the front of the design, refers to the earth's satellite overseeing the rhythms of nature, guiding farmers in tending their crops.
The albarello vessel was created by the Grandi Maestri from Montelupo Fiorentino in a limited series of 99 numbered and certified examples, and it is a true copy, in form and decoration, of the original from the 17th century held at the Aboca Museum.
The Aboca project, an exploration of the profound bond between man and nature, is helping to recover the wisdom of ancient craft techniques. For this reason the production of items is entrusted to the expertise of the masters of the art reviving the centuries-old tradition synonymous with Italy throughout the world.
The process of working the ceramic involves a fine, russet-coloured clay being turned on a lathe and then dried. The resulting majolica is engobed, or covered with a semi-liquid clay, and given an initial firing at 980°. The item is then immersed in a glaze obtained from a mixture of colours similar to that used in the 16th century potteries and duly prepared for Aboca.
The decorators trained at the school of Montelupo Fiorentino then paint by hand. The glaze then undergoes a second firing at 920°. Lastly it is aged via a cold process of applying a varnish diluted with turpentine and wax.
The number of the item and the signature of the decorator is then marked on the base of the piece.
The Albarello was a typical pharmacy container. It is characterised by its particular cylindrical shape, wider at the base and at the mouth, reminiscent of a bamboo cane. This is particularly significant because in ancient times drugs came from the East in bamboo canes.
Its origin is Persian, but the albarello has always been an emblem of medicinal spice blenders as the tanniferous glaze used for producing majolica makes the item completely impermeable, useful for long and effective storage of medicines.