• FA-112914 © Technisches Museum Wien, Photo: Peter Sedlaczek
Collection Area
Production Technology
Chemical Production Engineering
before 1800
At the moment this object is not published in the museum.

The "Nönnchen", apothecary flask, 1700-1750

How rude! These pear-shaped apothecary flasks were called Nönnchen, or little nuns, alluding to the visual association between convent mishaps and the ‘pregnant’ bottle shape.

Nönnchen were used first and foremost for storing essential oils and spirit-based concoctions. The object from the collection of the Technisches Museum Wien is inscribed with the letters: Ess: Card: Benedict: (Essentia Cardui benedicti, essence of St. Benedict’s thistle). It was made in Germany, where apothecary vessels and glass jars were particularly colourful. In fact, nowhere was as brightly coloured as the premises of dispensing chemists, or pharmacies, in Germany. And nowhere was such an abundance of luminous painted enamel work manufactured as in the glassworks of Thuringia and Saxony.

In the 17th century, glass began to compete more and more with ceramic as the material of choice for apothecary jars and receptacles. Glass had outstanding properties: it is acid-resistant, watertight and transparent. Characteristic shapes that were well suited to apothecary use gradually emerged. Narrow-necked glass bottles were intended for essences, tinctures, waters, elixirs, oils, and other fluids and liquids. Wide-necked glass receptacles were used for storing solid, viscous or powdery substances.

The brightly decorated patterns are not just pretty to look at. The painted enamel, which involves firing metal oxides into the outer surface in a kiln, is also very hard-wearing. Black letters were used to highlight the lettering on the jars and receptacles. And the ornamentation flourished around the lettering itself. Enamel glass painters had always had close ties with glassworks, sharing the use of the glasswork kilns to fire their paints. By contrast glass painters using a cold painting technique were not associated with the glassworks as they worked with simple oil paints in a cold process. As the relevant exhibits from the collection clearly illustrate, it was a far less durable painting technique.

Provenance: Germany
Production date: first half of the 18th century

Inv.Nr. 11322/554
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