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Dish

  • Place of origin:

    Urbania (made)

  • Date:

    ca. 1540 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Unknown

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Tin-glazed earthenware

  • Museum number:

    1781-1855

  • Gallery location:

    Ceramics, Room 137, The Curtain Foundation Gallery, case 40, shelf 7

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 Diana and Acteon, as told in Book III of Ovid's Metamorphosis. The prince, Acteon, watches the beautiful and chaste goddess, Diana, bathing with her nymphs. Upon discovering him, Diana transforms the intruder into a stag and sets his own hunting dogs on him. 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

Dish painted with the Metamorphosis of Actaeon (Ovid, Metamorphoses, III). Diana, standing in pool below a tree-crowned rock, is dashing water over Actaeon, whose transformation in to a stag is almost completed; behind her two nymphs are turning away in alarm; the stag is being attacked by two greyhounds. In the distance to the left, a town approached by two bridges and a fortress on a crag.

Place of Origin

Urbania (made)

Date

ca. 1540 (made)

Artist/maker

Unknown

Materials and Techniques

Tin-glazed earthenware

Dimensions

Diameter: 30 cm

Object history note

Formally in the Bernal Collection

Historical significance: This plate is painted with a scene from the story of Diana and Acteon, as told in Book III of Ovid's Metamorphosis. The prince, Acteon, watches the beautiful and chaste goddess, Diana, bathing with her nymphs. Upon discovering him, Diana transforms the intruder into a stag and sets his own hunting dogs on him. 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.

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

Dish depicting the myth of Diana and Actaeon, Urbania, ca. 1540.

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

Rackham, B. Italian Maiolica. London: Faber & Faber, 1952.
Watson, Wendy M, Italian Renaissance Ceramics From the Howard I. and Janet H. Stein Collection and the Philadelphia Museum of Art, exh.cat. Philadelphia, The Philadelphia Museum of Art, 2001
Syson, Luke & Dora Thornton, Objects of Virtue: Art in Renaissance Italy, London: The British Museum Press, 2001

Materials

Earthenware; Tin glaze

Techniques

Painting

Categories

Ceramics; Maiolica

Collection

Ceramics Collection

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