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Plate

  • Place of origin:

    Urbino (made)

  • Date:

    ca. 1540-1550 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Unknown

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Tin-glazed earthenware

  • Museum number:

    1743-1855

  • Gallery location:

    Medieval & Renaissance, Room 64, The Wolfson Gallery, case 5

Ovid's Metamorphoses, recounting lively tales from Classical mythology, was much used by Renaissance artists. In 1497 a Venetian printer, Zoane Rosso, published a new edition of the text accompanied by allegorical interpretations and illustrative woodcuts that became essential sources for maiolica painters. The first Italian translation was printed in 1522, which greatly increased the popularity of Ovid and set the precedent for further translations into the vernacular. Ovid was extremely important to the humanistic tradition of the Renaissance, and was studied alongside Circero, Horace and Virgil.
This plate is painted with a scene from the story of Syrinx and Pan, told in Book I of Ovid's Metamorphoses. The beautiful and chaste nymph, Syrinx, is pursued by the lustful god, Pan. In an attempt to elude her assailant's embraces, Syrinx transforms herself into a bundle of reeds. As the familiarity with classical subjects from myth and legend grew, so did the demand for works of art based on them. Allegory was extremely important in reconciling these classical myths with Christian principles, and this choice of subject has distinct moralising overtones. Such a plate would have been admired not just for its beauty and erudition but may also have appealed to the Renaissance inclination to the erotic.

Physical description

Plate depicting the Metamorphosis of Syrinx (Ovid Metamorphoses, I). In a mountainous landscape, Pan is pursuing the nymph from whose head a reed is sprouting; a river-god reclines in the foreground. On the back yellow concentric circles and an inscription.

Place of Origin

Urbino (made)

Date

ca. 1540-1550 (made)

Artist/maker

Unknown

Materials and Techniques

Tin-glazed earthenware

Marks and inscriptions

Seringa mutata in can[n]a
Syrinx changed into a reed.
On reverse

Dimensions

Diameter: 21.5 cm, Depth: 2.7 cm, Weight: 0.36 kg

Object history note

Formerly in the Bernal Collection

Historical significance: This plate is painted with a scene from the story of Syrinx and Pan, told in Book I of Ovid's Metamorphoses. The beautiful and chaste nymph, Syrinx, is pursued by the lustful god, Pan. In an attempt to elude her assailant's embraces, Syrinx transforms herself into a bundle of reeds. As the familiarity with classical subjects from myth and legend grew, so did the demand for works of art based on them. Allegory was extremely important in reconciling these classical myths with Christian principles, and this choice of subject has distinct moralising overtones. Such a plate would have been admired not just for its beauty and erudition but may also have appealed to the Renaissance inclination to the erotic. Indeed, a few plates bearing such mythical or allegorical themes have lifted their subjects directly from such sources as Giulio Romano's I modi, the notorious erotic prints illustrative of various sexual positions.

Historical context note

Ovid's Metamorphoses, recounting lively tales from Classical mythology, was much used by Renaissance artists. In 1497 a Venetian printer, Zoane Rosso, published a new edition of the text accompanied by allegorical interpretations and illustrative woodcuts that became essential sources for maiolica painters. The first Italian translation was printed in 1522, which greatly increased the popularity of Ovid and set the precedent for further translations into the vernacular. Ovid was extremely important to the humanistic tradition of the Renaissance, and was studied alongside Circero, Horace and Virgil.

Descriptive line

Plate depicting the Metamorphosis of Syrinx

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

Rackham B., Italian Maiolica, London, Faber &Faber, 1952
Watson W., Italian Renaissance Ceramics, Philadelphia, 2001

Production Note

Probably made in the workshop of Guido Durantino (Fontana)

Categories

Ceramics

Collection

Ceramics Collection

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