Officina decoration as Early Modern marketing strategy

Four eighteenth-century wall painting medallions framed by vegetal decoration have been preserved in the Officina of the pharmacy owned by Tobias Maucksch in Cluj-Napoca. Two of the medallions with stucco relief frames are heart-shaped and depict pairs of Cornucopias, Roman symbols of plenty, while the other two are adapted to the room’s function, being decorated with symbols of pharmacy: the snakes of Asklepios and the stork with a rock in its claws, a symbol of vigilance. It is interesting to note the fact that these are rare examples of lay Baroque painting preserved in Cluj. 
Baroque medallions decorating the vault of the Officina of Tobias Maucksch’s private pharmacy in Cluj

According to the Latin inscription painted on one of the adjacent walls (the one visitors would first see, after entering the shop from Unirii Square), the work was completed in 1766 by the privileged pharmacist Tobias Maucksch with God’s grace and favor “vix espectatos duxit bona causa triumphos”, when the good cause ended in expected triumph. The owner was thus displaying his status and privilege that he envisaged as being a good cause and obtained through divine favor. The prominent position of this inscription inside the apothecary shop stresses the importance of its message and reveals another mechanism of self promotion and marketing in the dawn of modernity in Cluj. As representative room of the pharmacy, the Officina was understandably the most decorated, carrying the most numerous symbolic messages aimed as pointing to the pharmacist’s status, wealth, erudition and enjoyment of God’s graces. Other elements might have originally existed in this Officina, but one third of it (on the building’s corner) were demolished during the 1950s by the authorities in a town planning measure aimed at enlarging pedestrian circulation in that part of the square.

Latin inscription preserved (though a poorer state) in the same Officina
 Though few such Early Modern items have been preserved, none from Cluj, the furniture of the pharmacies was also special, with open shelves displaying ornate apothecary jars or with drawers with painted signatures in Latin. These Latin inscriptions, to be found on apothecary furniture items and jars, also had a secondary function (besides indicating their contents), that of impressing customers. The (presumed) erudition of the pharmacist, schooled in both the science of medicine preparation and classical culture, was another way of gaining the client’s trust. The selection of Latin as the language of the inscription discussed above from the Officina of Maucksch’s pharmacy in Cluj might point in the same direction.

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