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Plate

  • Place of origin:

    Urbino (made)

  • Date:

    ca. 1524 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Nicola da Urbino (painter)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Tin-glazed earthenware, painted

  • Credit Line:

    Bequeathed by George Salting, Esq.

  • Museum number:

    C.2229-1910

  • Gallery location:

    Medieval & Renaissance, Room 64, The Wolfson Gallery, case SS1

This plate belongs to the service made for Isabella d’Este-Gonzaga, which is generally agreed to have been painted by Nicola da Urbino; perhaps the greatest of all painters of maiolica. Nicola appears to have spent his entire career in his native city, Urbino, where he had a workshop.
The Este-Gonzaga Service, although not signed or marked, can be attributed to him on stylistic grounds; it appears to date between 1521 and 1528, dates of the only two dishes signed by Nicola (Leningrad, Hermitage and Florence, Museo Nazionale del Bargello).
No documentary evidence about the Service has been found, however, a letter from Eleonora Gonzaga to her mother Isabella, dated 15 November 1524 possibly refers to this service (see Historical context note).

Depicted on the rim is the story of Hyppolitus and Phaedra (some of the figures are based on a woodcut on folio 15 v. of Ovid Metamorphoses, published in Venice by Lucantonio Giunta in 1497). On the right Hyppolithus emerges from a building drawing his sword and followed by Phaedra. On the left Theseus, with drawn sword, banishes his son Hyppolitus, whose stepmother Phaedra had falsely accused him of attempted seduction. Above, Hyppolitus drives a chariot towards the seashore. A balustrade in the foreground bears Isabella's Latin motto and ciphers: "Ne spe nec metu" (Neither hope nor fear) and "VII" twice, which means "sette vinte" or "difficulties overcome".

Physical description

Plate, tin-glazed earthenware, with sunken centre and broad border. Painted in the centre is the arms of Gonzaga impaling Este, supported by two Putti, below is Isabella d'Este's musical device, the Impresa delle Pause. Depicted on the rim is the story of Hyppolitus and Phaedra (some of the figures are based on a woodcut on fol. 15 v. of Ovid Metamorphoses, published in Venice by Lucantonio Giunta in 1497). On the right Hyppolithus emerges from a building drawing his sword and followed by Phaedra. On the left Theseus, with drawn sword, banishes his son Hyppolitus, whose stepmother Phaedra had falsely accused him of attempted seduction. Above, Hyppolitus drives a chariot towards the seashore. A balustrade in the foreground bears Isabella's Latin motto and ciphers: "Ne spe nec metu" (Neither hope nor fear) and "VII" twice, which means "sette vinte" or "difficulties overcome".
The reverse has concentric ridges close to the rim and two painted concentric yellow lines.
Chipped and restored.

Place of Origin

Urbino (made)

Date

ca. 1524 (made)

Artist/maker

Nicola da Urbino (painter)

Materials and Techniques

Tin-glazed earthenware, painted

Marks and inscriptions

'NEC SPE NEC METU'
Neither hope not fear
Appears on the right hand side of the balustrade.

'VII'
Inscribed twice on the balustrade.

Dimensions

Diameter: 27 cm, Height: 4.6 cm

Object history note

Bernal Collection, London, Christies March 24, 1855, Lot 2050; Roussel Collection, Paris; Fountaine Collection, Christies, 16 June 1884, Lot 36; bequeathed to the Victoria and Albert Museum by George Salting (14 June 1886).

Historical context note

In the 1520s Nicola da Urbino was commissioned to provide a ceramic service for Isabella D'Este (1474-1539), daughter of Ercole I of Ferrara, Marchioness of Mantua and cultivated patron of artists. As the wife of Duke Francesco Gonzaga (d. 1519) Isabella attracted a glittering circle of humanist and literary figures.
Twenty-two pieces from the Este-Gonzaga Service, all bearing Isabella's arms and imprese (personal symbols and mottoes), have survived in collections around the world. This suite may have been given to her in 1524 by her daughter, Eleonora Gonzaga, Duchess of Urbino. A letter from Eleonora to her mother possibly refers to this service.
On 15 November 1524, Eleonora wrote to her mother in Mantua: "Thinking of visiting Your Excellency with some product of these lands that you may like; not finding anything suitable: I have ordered a service of earthenware...since the masters of this land of ours have some reputation for good craftsmanship, I shall be pleased if your Exc. likes it and if you could make good use of it at Porto, as it is something suitable for a villa…" (M. Palvarini Gobio Casali, La Ceramica a Mantova, Ferrara, 1987, pp. 211-212).

Descriptive line

Plate with polychrome decoration representing Hippolytus and Phaedra with the Arms of Gonzaga impaling Este, painted by Nicola da Urbino, ca.1524.

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

[Bernal Sale Catalogue]. Christies's, 24 March 1855, Lot 2050
[Fountaine Sale Catalogue]. Christie's, 16 June 1884, Lot 36.
Burlingtone Fine Arts Club. Catalogue of specimens of Hispano-Moresque and Majolica Pottery. London, 1887. no. 221.
Fortnum, C. Drury E. A descriptive catalogue of the maiolica, Hispano-Moresco, Persian, Damascus, and Rhodian wares in the South Kensington Museum : with historical notes, marks, & monograms. London : Science and Art Department of the Committee of Council on Education, 1873. pp325-327.
Fortnum. Charles Drury Edward. Maiolica. Oxford, 1896. pp191, 193.
Solon, Marc Louis. A History and Desciption of Italian Majolica. London, 1907. col. pl. XXII.
Wallis, Henry. Plates by Nicola Fontana da Urbino at the Correr Museum Venice, A Study in early XVIth Century Maiolica. London, 1905. p65.
Falke, Otto von. Die Majolikasammlung Alfred Pringsheim in Munchen. vol. II. The Hague, 1923. introduction.
Rackham, Bernard. Faenza. XVIII. pl. XXXIV.
Liverani, Rassegna, IX, ill., p. 336.
Mallet, J.V.G. 'The Este-Gonzaga Service, made for Isabella D'Este c. 1525 by Nicolò da Urbino (active c. 1520-40)'. In : Chambers, David and Martineau, Jane (eds.). Splendours of the Gonzaga. London : Victoria and Albert Museum, 1982.

Production Note

This plate belongs to the service made for Isabella d’Este-Gonzaga, which is generally agreed to have been painted by Nicola da Urbino; one of the first potters to specialize in istoriato wares and perhaps the greatest of all painters of maiolica. Nicola appears to have spent his entire career in his native city, Urbino, where he had a workshop.
The Este-Gonzaga Service, although not signed or marked, can be attributed to him on stylistic grounds; it appears to date between 1521 and 1528, dates of the only two dishes signed by Nicola (Leningrad, Hermitage and Florence, Museo Nazionale del Bargello).
No documentary evidence about the Service has been found, however, a letter from Eleonora Gonzaga to her mother Isabella, dated 15 November 1524 possibly refers to this service (see Historical context note).

Materials

Earthenware; Tin-glazed

Categories

Ceramics; Earthenware

Collection

Ceramics Collection

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