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Dish

  • Place of origin:

    Ferrara (Probably)

  • Date:

    ca. 1470 to 1500

  • Artist/Maker:

    Unknown

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Incised slipware, lead-glazed

  • Museum number:

    1805-1855

  • Gallery location:

    Ceramics, Room 143, The Timothy Sainsbury Gallery, case 14, shelf 1

The decoration is scratched through a surface coating of white slip, laid over the darker clay body of the earthenware. In this manner, the decoration stands out as dark lines on a pale background. The decoration is then highlighted with metallic oxides to produce the green and brownish-yellow colours. Finally, the dish is covered with a transparent lead glaze and then fired again in the kiln. It is at this point that the painted coloured oxides would run in the glaze causing the variegated effect you see here.

Incised slipware was a predominantly northern Italian tradition. The abundant, dark-red local clay was used to optimum decorative advantage, when contrasted with fine white clay which could be obtained from Vicenza. Two notable centres of production were Bologna and Ferrara, where the court demanded wares of the highest quality.

Large dishes like this were used for bringing food to the table and serving, as well as for display. Contemporary illustrations, show servants carrying large dishes covered by a second dish, which served as a cover to keep the food hot. The unusually elaborate decoration on the reverse of this dish, suggests that it might have had a dual function of both dish and cover.

Physical description

Large dish with decoration of six tree-climbing cupids and two dragons. On the back a similarly elaborate incised decoration, showing a stag in front of a hurdle in the centre, surrounded by two bands of floral scrolls, the inner one interspersed with five smaller medallions, depicting a female head in profile, a stag, a bird, a hare and a hound. The decoration is scratched through a surface coating of white slip, laid over the darker clay body of the earthenware. Covered with a transparent lead-glaze, partially stained with iron (for amber-brown), manganese (for purple) or copper (for green).

Place of Origin

Ferrara (Probably)

Date

ca. 1470 to 1500

Artist/maker

Unknown

Materials and Techniques

Incised slipware, lead-glazed

Dimensions

Diameter: 39.5 cm, Weight: 2.05 kg, Height: 6.5 cm

Object history note

Purchased from the Bernal Collection

Historical context note

Large dishes like this were used for bringing food to the table and serving, as well as for display. Contemporary illustrations, show servants carrying large dishes covered by a second dish, which served as a cover to keep the food hot. The unusually elaborate decoration on the reverse of this dish, suggests that it might have had a dual function of both dish and cover.

Descriptive line

Red earthenware covered with a white slip and with incised decoration. North Italian (Ferrara), c.1470-1500

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

Nepoti, S., Ceramiche Graffite della donazione Donini Baer, Faenza (Museo Internazionale delle Ceramiche in Faenza) 1991, cats. 40-49
Honey, W.B., 'Bologna Pottery of the Renaissance Period', The Burlington Magazine, vol.48, no.278 (May 1926), pp.224-235
Rackham, Bernard, Catalogue of Italian Maiolica, Victoria & Albert Museum, London, 1940
Reggi, G.L., Commune di Ferrara. Ceramica nelle civiche collezioni, catalogo della mostra, Ferrara, 1972

Labels and date

1. Dish
Italy, probably Ferrara, 1480-1500
The potter has given the cupids greater prominence by painting the surrounding areas with underglaze colours. [(TAB) 2009]

Subjects depicted

Dragons; Stag; Cupids

Categories

Ceramics; Earthenware

Collection

Ceramics Collection

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