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German 'Wild Men'?

German ‘Wild Men’?

The bearded face (Bartmann) is the classic decoration on the necks of German stoneware jugs from Cologne and Frechen in the 1500s and 1600s. Its origin is possibly from the mythical figure of the ‘Wild Man’, which was common in Northern European folklore in the 1300s – 1500s. Wild men were supposed to inhabit remote areas like mountains and forests and they appear in tapestries, illuminated manuscripts and the architecture of the time. 

Today, these types of jugs with the bearded faces are often called ‘Bellarmines’. The first mention of this name for the jugs is in William Cartwright’s comedy of 1634, The Ordinary. Popular tradition suggests that the name comes from Cardinal Roberto Bellarmino (1542-1621), who preached against Protestantism in North Germany and the Low Countries. Dutch stoneware dealers and English buyers may have nicknamed the jugs ‘Bellarmines’ as a joke about him.

Further reading:

Gaimster, D. (1997): German Stonewares, 1200-1900, British Museum Press

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