C23: Maiolica dish with trophies and grotesques
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© The Holburne Museum of Art, Bath
|Title||Maiolica dish with trophies and grotesques|
|Object type||In category: Ceramics » Dish|
|Place of origin||Europe » Southern Europe » Italy » Central Italy » Marche » Urbino|
23.8 cm diameter
|Materials & techniques||
|Description||Round maiolica dish with deep central well and broad rim (tondino). Grotesques and trophies painted on rim, initials G and M, cross and foliage device painted in central well.|
|Marks and inscriptions||
|Notes||This type of decoration, known as grotteschi, became fashionable in Renaissance Italy following the discovery in Rome, in about 1480, of Emperor Nero’s Golden House. The excavated palace contained amazingly well preserved wall paintings. The ornaments that made up the designs, including foliage, ribbons and chimerical creatures, provided maiolica painters with a rich source of inspiration. The versatility of the motifs gave artisans the means to fulfil the Renaissance market’s appetite for beauty, abundance, caprice and wit.
The dish is decorated with 'grotesque' ornament a candelieri, a type of symmetrical design that 'grows' from a single point in the composition. The decorations are painted in grisaille – which means that instead of using the bright colours seen in other dishes the decoration is designed to resemble sculpture. The grisaille here is painted in a cool stone colour with a bluish tint and opaque white used to highlight the forms of the chimerae. The device comprising the initials G and M, the double cross and the stylised foliage is painted in a deep inky blue on a bright yellow ground. The central cavetto in this dish is flattened off at the bottom, a narrow ornamental border has been painted, in lighter blue, around this central, circular flat area.
The rim of the dish is painted all over with the grotesque design on a bright blue ground. The very edge of the dish is painted bright yellow. The pattern around the rim includes motifs of classicising trophies and also grotesque ornament in the form of two chimerical, serpentine beasts. They are characterised as male (on the left) and female (on the right), giving a clue to the meaning of the trompe l’oeil inscription, AMORE, the Italian word for love. The dish may have been part of a set commissioned to mark the occasion of a marriage. In the sixteenth century maiolica was a rapidly growing industry, as much as an art, and was available to a wide market of consumers that encompassed a newly-emergent ‘middle class.’ The initials G and M interlinked in the centre could indicate that the owners of this service were not high-ranking enough to have an actual coat of arms.
There is a close relationship between this dish and dishes C42 and C43 at the Wallace Collection. C42 is almost identical to the British Museum’s dish, dated 1529 (Reg. no. BM. 1995) and an undated dish in the Museo Civico, Pesaro. The relationship between this group of dishes is sufficiently close that one has to assume that they are the products of a common workshop. It is interesting to note that, while the Wallace’s C43 and the BM dish have a far darker blue ground, which gives them a distinct look, the Wallace C42 and Holburne C23 are both dated to 1526 and share extremely similar colours. The ground and the grotteschi themselves being a bright, saturated blue in contrast to the ultramarine and sober, realistically stony grisaille of the later dishes. The 1529 British Museum dish has lustre dropped into grooves highlighting the scrolling foliage of the design and this points to Urbino over Castel Durante as there is more documentary evidence confirming that dishes were sent from Urbino to Gubbio for lustering.
The History of the Holburne Collection » The Collection » Ceramics
|Provenance||Sir Thomas William Holburne (1793-1874); by whom bequeathed to Mary Anne Barbara Holburne (1802-1882), by whom bequeathed to the Museum|