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Ewer

Ewer

  • Place of origin:

    Urbino (made)

  • Date:

    1550-1560 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Fontana Workshop (maker)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Tin-glazed earthenware

  • Credit Line:

    Bequeathed by George Salting, Esq.

  • Museum number:

    C.2293-1910

  • Gallery location:

    Medieval & Renaissance, Room 62, case 12

During the sixteenth century the diet of the elite expanded. New ingredients were available from a widening global market and lavish recipes proliferated in the period. For the first time, gastronomic literature became part of the food culture of the wealthy. What was eaten and drunk mattered as it reflected and constructed an individual's social status. New ceramic forms for holding the growing variety of types of foodstuffs and for accommodating the stylish modes of eating were developed; such as crespine (moulded dishes for holding fruit), piatte detti da carne (meat plates) and rinfrescatoio (coolers). Knowledge of the specific functions of the new forms also formed part of the self-conscious preoccupation with discernment and decorum. During the century a number of codified philosophical ideas on manners, cleanliness and hospitality that reflected this concern were written. The production of clear glass (cristallino) tazze from Murano is a good example of the self-conscious interest in fine manners. The shape of the glass made drinking difficult, it demanded due attention to avoid spillage.
The introduction of individual vessels, cutlery, napkins, tablecloths and place settings at table also signaled a development in the elite modes of eating and drinking. It marked a change with the earlier medieval practice of sharing implements. For the first time dining "services" were produced with individual flatware or plates for those at table. Sets were produced in standard quantities, plates were sold in by six or twelve. As luxury items, however maiolica services were however also specially commissioned and often decorated with the appropriate heraldic devices and imprese linking the individual service with the patron. However, it is likely that these items were reserved for occasional use or display purposes only.
From the end of the fifteenth century maiolicaware was often painted with antique narratives known as "istoriato". The depiction of these ancient myths and histories, painted in perspective, echoed the intellectual interests of the period. Indeed, the idea behind such decoration on vessels for eating and drinking may have been that guests would have been able to recognize the stories and characters, which reflected on and flattered their classical learning and erudition.

Physical description

Ewer, with spout moulded with a grotesque mask surrounded by gadroons and arch handle in the form of two linked strands with applied studs. Vulcan forging arrows for Cupid. Beneath slight tent in a mountainous landscape Vulcan sits at his anvil with Cupid and a boy standing by and Venus approaching from the right; at the back, domed buildings and a bridge.

Place of Origin

Urbino (made)

Date

1550-1560 (made)

Artist/maker

Fontana Workshop (maker)

Materials and Techniques

Tin-glazed earthenware

Marks and inscriptions

Vulcan forging arrows for Cupid

Dimensions

Height: 26 cm, Diameter: 14 cm

Object history note

Fountaine Collection. Bequeathed by Mr George Salting.
Fountaine Sale Cat., Chrisitie's, 17 June 1884; B.F.A.C. Cat., 1887, no 226

Historical significance: From the end of the fifteenth century maiolica was often painted with antique narratives known as "istoriato". The depiction of these ancient myths and histories, painted in perspective, echoed the intellectual interests of the period. Indeed, the idea behind such decoration on vessels for eating and drinking may have been that guests would have been able to recognize the stories and characters, which reflected on and flattered their classical learning and erudition. Furthermore, the function of vessel occasionally determined the decoration of an appropriate theme. For example, coolers and ewers were decorated with water or marine themes.

Historical context note

During the sixteenth century the diet of the elite expanded. New ingredients were available from a widening global market and lavish recipes proliferated in the period. For the first time, gastronomic literature became part of the food culture of the wealthy. A number of codified philosophical ideas on manners, cleanliness and hospitality were written revealing a broader preoccupation with behaviour and social status. The introduction of individual vessels, cutlery, napkins, tablecloths and place settings at table also signaled a development in the elite modes of eating and drinking. It marked a change with the earlier medieval practice of sharing eating implements. For the first time dining "services" were produced with individual flatware or plates for those at table. Sets were produced in standard quantities, plates were sold by six or twelve. Clear glass known as cristallino which was often enameled and gilded, produced in Murano, became desirable for drinking vessels. There is evidence to suggest that fine maiolica services may have been displayed on the credenza in the same manner as silver.

Descriptive line

Ewer with depiction of Vulcan forging arrows for Cupid

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

Ajmar-Wollheim, Marta & Flora Dennis (Eds.) Renaissance at Home. London: V&A Museum, 2006.
Hess, Catherine (Ed.). The Arts of Fire: Islamic Influences on Glass and Ceramics of the Italian Renaissance. Los Angeles, The J. Paul Getty Museum, 2004.
Rackham, Bernard. Catalogue of Italian Maiolica, vol. I & vol. II. London: V&A Museum, 1977, 2nd edition.
Syson, Luke and Dora Thornton. Objects of Virtue: Art in Renaissance Italy. London, British Museum, 2001.
Wilson, Timothy. Ceramic Art of the Italian Renaissance. London: British Museum, 1987.

Materials

Earthenware; Tin glaze

Techniques

Painting

Categories

Ceramics; Earthenware; Myths & Legends

Collection

Ceramics Collection

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