D1838. Polychrome Puzzle Jug
Delft, circa 1750
The spherical body painted in blue with a hunting scene of a figure holding a spear and five dogs chasing a bull between trees, in the distance a church tower, windmills and other buildings within a cartouche formed by yellow, manganese and iron-red flowers, green leaves and yellow scrollwork on either side extending toward a blue landscape scene within a yellow cartouche beneath the floral-decorated tubular loop handle, its upper end affixed to a channel at the rim, its flowering vine border interrupted by three trumpet-shaped nozzles with crimped edges, the cylindrical neck below with an iron-red ground pierced between an elaborate design of green foliage and one yellow shell flanked by two yellow flower heads.
Height: 22.1 cm. (8.7 in.)
The puzzle jug is one of the oldest jokes in the Delft potters’ continually playful repertoire. Puzzle jugs were intended as an amusing tavern game or a conversation piece during a dinner party. One can only imagine the popularity of these objects in homes and taverns as drinkers attempted to consume the contents without causing a spill. After a long and alcohol-induced evening, it became an increasing challenge. The pierced openwork on the neck of the jug intentionally prevented any liquid in the body from being poured or consumed, and provided rounds of hilarity when the uninitiated attempted to drink from the vessel. Additional holes that were cleverly concealed made the challenge even more confounding. The decoration on this puzzle jug depicts the very violent game of bull-baiting, in which dogs are pit against bulls. The dogs were trained to target the bull’s snouts, the most sensitive part of the animal. When the dogs grabbed the nose, the bulls would violently shake and sometimes throw the dog into the air as the bulls tried free their snouts. The event was seen as a real entertainment and attracted crowds.
- Repair to rim of one spout