Bartmann Jug

This is a Bartmann jug (German: Bartmannskrug), a type of rheinisch stoneware originating from the Cologne region in Germany during the 16th-17th century. This specific piece was found in the region of Limburg in the Netherlands. The jug shows the bearded face typical to rheninisch stoneware of this kind and often depicted in Renaissance manuscripts, textiles, graphic art, and architecture.

3D model of the Bartmann Jug

Many stoneware and ceramic products were found during the Limburg region excavations (Aarts, 2023). Due to the mass of excavations and the economic possibilities to record and document them, the exact location of many finds is unknown and recorded, as is the case with this jug (Aarts, 2023). The Bartmann jug had multiple uses and functions, among other things, as a storage jug during travel in oversea shipping. Bartmann jugs were internationally distributed and were therefore also found in the Maastricht Area.

This object belongs to the following theme:



Place of Origin
Cologne region, Germany

Time Period of Use (ca.)
1500 – 1600 CE

Salt-glazed Stoneware

Dimensions (cm)
Height: 40

3D Model

Canon EOS 250D

Processing software
Agisoft Metashape Professional Edition

Mara Juhnke & Anne-Sophie Oppor

“Local Product,
Global Player”

This is the motto of the Bartmann jug (Archäologie im Rheinland, n.d.). Rheinish stoneware was the first ceramic product to transcend the scope of European markets and spread across the globe (Archäologie im Rheinland, n.d.). During the 16th century, the production of rheinisch stoneware boomed, with an estimate of over 100,000 pieces of German stoneware traveling through Holland into Britain (Frechen Stoneware, n.d.). This simultaneously led to an increase of the production and distribution of Bartmann jugs, with archeological finds all over the world at the end of the 17th century (Gaimster, 1997). To this day, the Bartmann jug’s popularity has not decreased; they are exhibited in various collections across the globe, such as the MET, the Rijksmuseum, and the British Museum. Its employment as “witch-bottles” caused an increase of popularity as well, so much so that its fascination spread into today’s pop culture on social media (YouTube, 2022). Originals as well as 19th-century “knockoffs” can be purchased online, and reproductions are made to prolong the seemingly beloved aura of original rheinish Bartmann jugs (ArtifactsPL, n.d.). With only a 90-kilometer distance between Maastricht and the largest rheinisch stoneware production place in Frechen, Germany, one may assume that Bartmann jugs were also widely used by Maastrichteneers at the time. Therefore, the Bartmann jug is a valuable piece to the Maastricht Collection and represents a part of Rheinish stoneware history as well as of the early globalization process and international trade.

What is the Bartmann jug?

The Bartmann Jug (German: “Bartmannskrug”) is an ancient salt-glazed rheinisch stoneware jug that was typically produced in the 16th and 17th centuries. It is named after the bearded face (“Bartmann”) that is often depicted on the jug’s neck or spout (Gaimster, 1997). The jug featured in this collection was most likely found in the Netherlands in the Limburg region, however, its exact location remains unknown as well as detailed information regarding its exact use and production (Aarts. 2023).

Bartmann jugs were produced in various sizes and forms for different purposes, such as jugs, bottles, or pitchers (BR Fernsehen, n.d.). Made from a type of gray or brown stoneware clay, the jugs were fired at high temperatures and then glazed to create a durable, non-porous surface (BR Fernsehen, n.d.). This made them ideal for storing and serving a variety of goods, such as, for example, beer, as they were able to withstand the pressure of carbonation and prevent the beer from spoiling (BR Fernsehen, n.d.). Satirically, the jugs were named after a Catholic cardinal who was infamous for wanting to ban alcohol across Europe (Forge, 2021). Additionally, their non-porous surface made the jugs waterproof, which made them ideal for shipment overseas, and also explains why exemplars retrieved from shipwrecks were often found almost undamaged (Ellmers, 2004; Ouellette, 2022).

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While the jug varied in size, color, and shape, one distinct feature remained throughout its production: The bearded face. The Bartmann face is said to be related to the wild man, a mythical figure, who was often depicted in Renaissance manuscripts, textiles, graphic art, architecture, and literature from northern Europe (Gaimster, 2014; Shakespeare in 100 objects: ‘Bartmann’ jug, n.d.). The face could vary in shape, expression, and size, as seen in the picture below:

“Bearded faces” around the world. Here: Exemplars from the Philadelphia Museum of Art, Connecticut Historical Society Museum and Library, British Museum, Rijksmuseum, Greenwich, and Jamestown

Representation of Maastricht

During the late Middle Ages and early modern period, stoneware became one of the main German export products (Gaimster, 1997; Cerámica Wiki, n.d.). The jug is, hence, a testament to the craftsmanship and artistic skills of the potters who made it. Moreover, it reflects the cultural and commercial exchanges that took place between different regions of Europe. One of the largest production centers in Frechen was only 90 kilometers away from Maastricht, which made Maastricht a close exchange partner and, presumably, a convenient trading hub (Ellmers, 2004). Frechen, a little pottery village at the time, had the advantage of being located close to Cologne, which, in comparison, was already a large center of commerce (Ellmers, 2004). Additionally, it was located next to the Rhine River; The Rhine, due to its winds and the flows, was the cheapest option for transport to the Netherlands, where particularly export from Amsterdam would span across continents (Ellmers, 2004).

World’s largest Bartmann jug, Frechen, Sternengasse / Neumann (2022)

The production and export of Bartmann jugs from and through Maastricht, therefore, contributed to the city’s reputation as a center of trade and commerce and helped to strengthen its economy. Today, tourists still come to see the world’s largest Bartmann jug in Frechen’s city center, with a height of 2.39 meters (Neumann, 2022). This makes the Bartmann jug a significant artifact to the history of Rheinisch stoneware, and therefore also to the Maastricht Collection.

Economics and Mobility

In the 16th century, Bartmann jugs were increasingly used for the transportation of goods via oversea shipping. The Rhine was one of the main arteries to Holland – the main hub for shipping overseas at that time. Due to their robust and waterproof nature, shipping companies, such as the Dutch VOC (Vereenigde Oostindische Compagnie), used the jugs on board, predominantly to transport foods and liquids (Ellmers, 2004). However, the jugs proved to be so durable that their use extended to carrying valuable commodities, such as mercury and mine gold (Ellmers, 2004). Thus, the Bartmann jug became the epitome of transport and travel companion.

The Dutch East India Company, founded in 1602, played a significant role in Dutch trade as it had the aim of protecting the state’s trade in the Indian Ocean (The Editors of Encyclopedia Britannica, 1998). Since Bartmann jugs were commonly used on ships owned by the company, many were found along their old trading routes and on their shipwrecks. Several Bartmann jugs have been found on shipwrecks, spanning from Southeast Asia, South Asia, Australia, the African west coast, and the United States (Ellmers, 2004).

Many of the jugs found on shipwrecks of the East India Company carried typical stamps, indicating that the jugs, originating from Frechen, were made specifically for the Dutch market (Ellmers, 2004). Some Bartmann jugs would be marked with a stamp or a logo for attribution to its producer or carrier. The logo on the image below shows a ship on the Rhine, a trademark, and the initials “CLM”. It is suspected that the initials belong to the owner of the trade company or a boat in the Cologne region (Ellmers, 2004). This shows that the Bartmann jugs were drawn as a sign of trade, especially for the merchants, or partly for the affiliation to certain guilds.

Application on a Bartmann jug, found on a shipwreck / Ellmers (2004)


The Bartmann jug provides multiple perspectives on the theme religion: Many of the early examples of Bartmann jugs were decorated with religious inscriptions. A typical exemplar of such is displayed at the Philadelphia Museum of Art (n.d.), bearing an inscription that reads: “DREINCK UND EST GODES NIT VERGESTN” (Old German: “Drink and eat, but do not forget your God”). It is suspected the text offered a message to the user that reflects the importance of moral and religious concerns in everyday life (Philadelphia Museum of Art, n.d.). Such inscriptions appear frequently on jugs made in Cologne, Frechen, and Siegburg during this time period (Philadelphia Museum of Art, n.d.).

Bartman Jug with religious inscription. At Philadelphia Museum of Art

It is, however, noteworthy that not all Bartmann jugs had religious inscriptions and not all of them were used with religious intent. Another tradition, maybe less related to religion and more so to spirituality, is the employment of the jugs as “witch-bottles” (Shakespeare in 100 objects: ‘Bartmann’ jug,n.d.). During the 17th century, archaeologists found exemplars containing pins, nails, hairs, or even human urine, indicating they could have been used as charms against witchcraft; These newly repurposed Bartmann jugs, or “witch-bottles” were found built into the walls of home particularly in England (Shakespeare in 100 objects: ‘Bartmann’ jug, n.d.; Museum of Witchcraft and Magic, 2021). It is speculated that the jugs would have to be hidden from sight to be effective in their protective qualities, which is why they are often found buried or otherwise hidden from sight (YouTube, 2022).

Xray of a “witch-bottle” containing nails / The mysterious case of the witch bottle (2016)

Written by Mara Juhnke & Anne-Sophie Oppor