Ceramics - Nursing Vessel

Painted ceramic with a pedestal plate and a handle 
Size: D. 28.0 cm, H. 22.0 cm
Origin and time: Tunis, first half of 19th century, (Qallaline)
Bardo National Museum, Tunis

Pottery has a long tradition in Tunisia and has gone through many various influences over the centuries. During the 17th century the Turkish influence became most relevant; it can still be experienced today in Quallaline near Tunis where polychromatic ceramics remind of those of Turkey. Each Tunesian region shows special characteristics and influences on its pottery art: Quallaline pottery shows primarily Punic, Arab and Andalus styles.

This piece is in many ways special: According to oral tradition it was used to nurse babies (but not to pump mother's milk). It is the only preserved piece, a perfect example for daily use ceramics uniting functionality with artistic design.

The beautifully made vessel is shaped similar to a modern baby carrying bag with a round pedestal plate and a handle. The fastener at the end probably served as a drinking device for the baby.
The nursing vessel is decorated with various ornamental patterns such as brown strips. Diagonal strokes run along the handle. The main decoration shows a big stylized bird in yellow and brown with a dark neck and open wings. The bird's head is bent down, apparently picking up something. Also some grasses in faded green are added to the ornamental repertoire.

The bird picking up food is obviously a symbolic reference to the use of this ceramic as a feeding vessel for the baby. Birds have been considered as auspicious and a symbol of glory and good fortune.