C22: Maiolica dish with grisaille trophies
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© The Holburne Museum of Art, Bath
|Title||Maiolica dish with grisaille trophies|
|Object type||In category: Ceramics » Dish|
|Place of origin||Europe » Southern Europe » Italy » Central Italy » Marche » Urbino|
20.3 cm diameter
|Materials & techniques||
|Description||Round maiolica dish with deep central well and broad rim. Trophies and profiled head and shoulders painted on surface. Painted with blue, white, brown, grey and yellow oxides. Dated 1550|
|Notes||C22 is a standard-sized dish with a deep bowl-shaped central well and a broad rim. The inner surface of the rim is decorated a trofei all over in a warm, straw-coloured yellowish version of grisaille, against a bright blue ground. The design of the trophies is somewhat generalised in comparison with similar examples. But the painter has discernibly included variously shaped shields, musical pipes and a cartouche along with unusual scallop-shell type forms. The outer rim of the dish is painted bright yellow.
The central well contains a loosely painted image of a classical portrait bust in slightly awkward three-quarters profile. It is highly probable that this figure was based on a print, although its ‘generalised’ characteristics make it very unlikely to be traceable to a specific engraving. The outline of the bust’s profile, hair and shoulders is picked out in a watery ink colour and the volumes of the head and upper torso suggested with loosely applied strokes of a brownish-grey, cooler in tone than that used for the rim decoration. Rather than seeking a trompe l’oeil grisaille effect – whereby the bottom of the bust would be resolved into a solid, joined-up form mimicking a piece of stone statuary – the lines of the toga merely fade out sketchily. The buff glaze underneath is left to show through behind and around the bust motif, with bright yellow applied around the edge of the central cavetto in loose, concentric strokes. Essentially, all the decorative devices on the dish recall the visual properties of their actual sources, drawings and prints, through the monochrome pallet used and the hatch-like quality of the handling in several passages.
A dish dated 1540 in the British Museum (BM reference number 1878,1230.453) is extremely close in design and colouring to C22, particularly in the warm tone used for the trophies and the curved shield forms. This dish presents a slightly more ‘finished’ appearance due to sharper, more precise painting, the exact matching of the grisaille colouring used for the central cupid figure and the encircling trophy decoration on the rim. However, the relationship between the two dishes does seem sufficiently close to see these as having been produced by the same workshop.
The British Museum catalogue attributes the 1540 dish to Castel Durante/Urbino. Without the discovery of documentation, it is hard to see how the attribution could be narrowed down to either Castel Durante or Urbino. The introduction of the Wallace Collection’s Catalogue of Ceramics suggests that the methods of connoisseurship used to make many of these attributions in the past are dubious. The writer of the introduction suggests that the only ‘firm’ attribution one can make in most such cases is 'Duchy of Urbino.' The Duchy of Urbino comprised Pesaro, Gubbio and Castel Durante as well as the town of Urbino itself. It seems defeatist to conclude that we are incapable of discerning between such a substantial swathe of the important centres for maiolica. A number of dishes painted with antique trophy decoration and musical instruments in the same warm, golden version of grisaille are to be found in the Museo Civico, Pesaro.
Sources for the design of Roman trophies were distributed via prints and engravings across Italy from around 1500 onwards. Earlier in the period c. 1510-1520 Giovanni Antonio da Brescia was one of the major engravers to produce images of trophies for dissemination. Examples of his trophy engravings can be found in the collection of the British Museum, for example, Military Trophies c.1510-20 (1919,0616.4). In 1550, the same year as C22, an album of antique trophy engravings by Enea Vico (b. Parma 1523 d. Ferrara 1567) was published in Venice by Antonio Lafreri. These prints show some of the distinctive objects represented on dish C22, such as the pipes. Examples of Vico’s work can also be found in the British Museum, including the significant trophies including musical instruments (1869,0410.1507 ref. Bartsch XV.355.445).
|Muse theme||The Art of Collecting
The History of the Holburne Collection » The Collection » Ceramics
|Provenance||August Richard de Montferrand (1786-1858); sold Christies 14 November 1859 (1); purchased by Sir Thomas William Holburne (1793-1874); by whom bequeathed to Mary Anne Barbara Holburne (1802-1882), by whom bequeathed to the Museum|