17th-19th century apothecary closets

The furniture collection of the History of Pharmacy Museum in Cluj-Napoca includes four apothecary closets from different pharmacies in Transylvania. The oldest is a rare 17th-century example of such specialized furniture once used in the Black Eagle pharmacy in Sibiu. Each drawer is marked by painted signatures in Latin, indicating its contents - Lap. pumicis (pumice stone), Lap. Haematidis (blood stone), Borax, Vitriol Hungaricum etc. This is one of the oldest exhibits of the History of Pharmacy Collection in Cluj, part of the National History Museum of Transylvania.

17th century apothecary closet from Sibiu/Hermannstadt, Transylvania, Romania
 Two other such closets date back to the 18th century and their original places of use remain unknown, as they were part of older private collections. One of the closets bears a simple, vegetal decoration, as most of the apothecary ingredients were vegetal in origin at that time, but the second is special through its iconography. It depicts the stages of life, from childhood (a child sitting on a skull, a Memento Mori type scene), youth, maturity and death (a skeleton with a scythe). Though several levels of interpretation are possible due to the details included in some of these scenes (the Wheel of Fortune, snakes, the globe etc.), the primary meaning of this composition was that all people must die but the moment can be postponed by buying drugs from the pharmacy, thus a kind of commercial and a strange Baroque marketing strategy.
18th century apothecary closet depicting the four stages of life

Detail of an 18th-century apothecary closet with vegetal decoration
The final example is a 19th century closet from the old Hintz Pharmacy that currently hosts the museum. This large closet is half open, with shelves currently holding apothecary jars made of wood, and half closed, with drawers with signatures. One of the larger drawers depicted here is marked "Saccharum", sugar, which was sold in loaves and thus required larger storage units.

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