Tuesday 29 December 2015

Apothecary's Mortar and Pestle

In 1646 the administration of the Hospice Saint Roch in Issoudun recruited an apothecary to care for the sick. They chose Master Maré, who had been working in Chateauroux. It was he who brought the indispensable utensils of his trade that today are the most precious objects in the collection of the apothecary section of the hospice turned museum.

A series of painted wooden boxes known as silènes; six pots from the end of the 16th century in tin-glazed earthenware from Lyon; and this superb mortar from the end of the 15th century. On its rim is recorded the name of the man who commissioned it and the year of its manufacture -- 'The year 1497 Thibault Pasquier had me made to serve in his business'.

The grinding of drugs to a powder constituted a long and necessary stage in the preparation of most remedies. Fixed to a block to set it at a comfortable working height the bronze mortar is closed by a wooden lid. The cover is a later addition and is open in the centre to take the pestle, but its purpose is to protect the practitioner from material which may be ejected while they work. According to the quantity and the nature (animal, vegetable or mineral) of ingredients to grind, mortars of specific sizes and materials (copper, tin, lead, marble, porphyry or glass) would be used. The mortar was usually enthroned in the middle of the workshop, it being one of the primary symbols of apothecaries, and numerous businesses adopted it for their signs and badges.


chm said...

This mortar is a beauty. In fact, everything on the second photo is beautiful. I wouldn't say the same about the nightmarish paintings by M. Vladimir Velikovic. I went to the end of the video, hoping there will be some photos of the rest of the museum. No such luck. In my opinion, M. Velickovic is a very sick man or as a youngster has been the witness of such horrors in whatever country he is from, and couldn't get away from them.

Susan said...

Yes, the Museum's website isn't the best.

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