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Antique petit feu polychrome puzzle jug at Aronson Antiquairs

Delftware Highlights at the Winter Antique Show : Petit Feu Polychrome and Gilded Puzzle Jug, Delft, circa 1730

From the 20th to 29th of January, will be held the 63rd edition of the Winter Antiques Show in New York. The Winter Antiques Show is the leading art, antiques, and design fair in America , featuring over 70 of the world’s top experts in the fine and decorative arts.

Before the fair begins, we would like to present every day one of the highlights that will be displayed on Aronson Antiquairs’ s booth. Today, we would like to present this extraordinary petit feu polychrome and gilded puzzle jug from circa 1730.

Painted around the pear-shaped body with three winged insects and a snail between three clusters of iron-red, manganese, green and gold flowers above a blue border embellished with gilt leaves and a scalloped band above the footrim, the cylindrical neck pierced with three hexagonal panels of trelliswork heightened in iron- red and gold beneath the blue-ground tubular rim decorated with four gilt scroll devices between the three spherical nozzles and the tubular loop handle, its outer edge with three beribboned leaves.


19.6 cm. (7 11/16 in.)


The collection of Daniël George van Beuningen (1877-1955); and hence by family descent to 2015


Through the centuries puzzle jugs have appeared in Italian, German, French and English ceramics and occasionally in other mediums, but it was not until the second half of the 17th century that they developed a certain popularity, and examples began appearing more frequently at that time. Although models from other countries are very uncommon, Dutch puzzle jugs are particularly rare. Dutch Delft examples can be found dating from the 1650s onward through the 18th century, which was their most popular period, and during which they even inspired the Chinese potters to produce puzzle jugs in porcelain.

Since it was difficult to produce these jugs, and based on the fact that they are often dated, they probably were produced on special order. Moreover, inventory lists of the factories and of the potters’ shops occasionally mention a so-called ‘suijgkan’ (‘suction-jug’), which refers to these vessels. The name ‘suijgkan’ hints at the secret of solving the puzzle of the jug. It was not the intention to pour or drink from it like a normal jug or tankard, as the pierced openwork on the neck of the jug makes clear. The jugs were intended as a game or a conversation piece during a dinner party. The answer of solving the puzzle is in the trick of the construction.

Generally, the hollow tubular rim has one functioning nozzle, and two or more “dummy” nozzles. These false spouts are connected to the hollow handle, which forms a siphon from the lower body. The suction, however, is broken by a small hole beneath the top of the handle. To successfully drink without spilling, the drinker must place his thumb over the hole in order to create a vacuum that allows him to suck the liquid from the jug up through the handle, around the rim and out through the one functioning nozzle. The unwitting guest who attempted to drink from it without covering the holes would find himself drenched.

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