Vitrified stoneware was produced in Frechen, just southwest of Cologne in the Rhine River valley from the early 1500s. In the 16th and 17th centuries, Frechen stoneware bottles and jugs were shipped in vast quantities from Cologne to Amsterdam and Dordrecht, and then to England. It is estimated that by 1600, at least 100,000 pieces of German stoneware were imported annually from Holland to Britain, when the population of London was only 200,000.
Large quantities of Frechen brown salt glazed stoneware have been recovered from James Fort, and no two are exactly alike. Most are bottles in a form known as Bartmann, German for “bearded man,” which is also known by the mistaken moniker, Bellarmine, so-called for the Italian Cardinal Bellarmino, a high-ranking Catholic official who opposed Protestantism. These jugs were used for a variety of purposes, but primarily to hold and decant beer and wine.
Fabric: The fabric is dense, hard, high-fired, and generally gray in appearance, although depending on kiln conditions, it is sometimes buff to pink colored. Numerous quartz inclusions are visible in the fabric under magnification. Interiors of these vessels are unglazed, glossy, and appear in a range of colors from buff to pink to gray. Thick, heavy horizontal potting rings are clearly evident on the interior walls, and the interior surfaces are bumpy from the quartz sand inclusions in the fabric. Also evident on the interiors is diagonal torqueing. Exterior bases typically display a series of graduated ovals, marks made by the wire used to remove the pottery from the potting wheel.
Glaze: The vessels were dipped into a thin iron oxide slip before they were fired in the kiln. The slip ranges in color from light to very dark reddish-brown, and drips below the slip line are common. Frechen stoneware was salt glazed, thus the exteriors surfaces appear mottled and shiny. A few examples were splashed with cobalt oxide on the masks and medallions before firing, and these highlighted areas appear cobalt blue.
Decoration: Jugs are commonly decorated on their necks with a sprig-molded mask of a bearded man. In the c. 1607-1624 period, the faces are ordinarily realistic and smiling, although other mouth configurations are documented. Although the majority of James Fort Bartmann jugs are ornamented mid-section with one or three sprig-molded medallions, some bear none. Occasionally bearing a date, the medallions include coats-of-arms of cities, duchies, or royalty, or human portraits. Bartmann jug rims are grooved and cordoned. Wide-mouthed jugs are very simply decorated with a groove below the rim, a horizontal ridge at the neck/body junction, and multiple cordons above the exterior base.
Form: Most James Fort Frechen vessels are Bartmann jugs. The assemblage also includes a small variety of wide-mouth jugs. Vertical strap handles are attached just below the vessel neck at the top and on the shoulder at the bottom, and generally terminate with a rat tail, although some are squared. One rat tail terminal is finger-impressed five times from top to bottom.