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  • Place of origin:

    Orvieto (probably, made)

  • Date:

    late 13th century to early 14th century (made)

  • Artist/Maker:


  • Materials and Techniques:

    Tin-glazed earthenware painted in mineral oxides, manganese and copper

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    Ceramics, Room 145, case 4, shelf 2

Physical description

The buff earthenware dish has a wide flat rim and a moulded underside. The front is covered in a thin coat of dull tin glaze and is decorated in manganese (brown) and copper (green). The decoration consists of a central image of a bird, probably an eagle, with its neck twisted round to fit the centre of the dish. The bird is on a cross-hatched background with three tri-lobed floral stems emerging from the edge of the basin. The rim is decorated with a running pattern of chevrons.

The dish was warped during firing.

Place of Origin

Orvieto (probably, made)


late 13th century to early 14th century (made)



Materials and Techniques

Tin-glazed earthenware painted in mineral oxides, manganese and copper


Diameter: 9.5 in from the RD

Object history note

This dish was originally in the private collection of Marcioni and Lucatelli. They put the dish (and C.201-1928) up for sale at Sothby's in 1914 but it failed to reach its reserve. It remained in the cellars at Sotheby's until 1928 when it was sold at auction to Mr. Spero.
Spero then sold it to the V&A for £30

Nominal File: Spero, Alfred Pt. 1926-1931

July 1928 Objects submitted on approval for Purchase from Alfred Spero, London

Maiolica dish, Orvieto, bird in green and purple
Rackham to Director:
I think we should be justified in buying these specimens of early maiolica….The dish with painting in green outline in manganese is of a better known but worth having for its fine painting of a bird and also as a document; it is a waster (misshapen so slightly however as hardly to impress its effect on a work of art) and must therefore almost certainly have been made where it was found – at Orvieto….

Historical context note

This dish and a jug (C.201-1928) were said to have been 'dug up at Orvieto'. At the end of the 19th and beginning of the early 20th century, Orvieto was undergoing a great deal of construction. The newly centralised Italian government was investing in the re-development of long-term economically deprived areas in the country. Orvieto, and the Umbrian region in which it is located, had been in economic decline since the plagues of the 14th century. The government authorised the removal of the old water systems in Orvieto in preparation for bringing in piped water. Many wells were demolished and a great deal of ceramic material, such as this dish, was coming out of them.

Such early tin-glaze was little known at the time and, as Orvieto was one of the first areas in which such material was being discovered, the term 'Orvieto ware' became applied to this simple green and brown painted dull tin-glazed ware. Also, as the ceramics were coming out of unstratified contexts, dating of this material was quite arbitrary. No other early Italian tin glazed ceramics had been studied so it was considered by the first scholars of this material that it must be late but obviously pre -Renaisance as it was not as brightly-coloured nor on a brilliant white ground as the material known from the latter part of the 15th and early 16th centuries. Many scholars just assigned an arbitrary 15th century date to this material.

Descriptive line

Dish of tin-glazed earthenware with a central image of a bird painted in green and brown. Made in Italy, probably at Orivieto, late 13th or early 14th century.

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

Gardelli, Giuliana, Ceramiche del Medievo e del Rinascimento, Ferrara, 1986
Bernard Rackham, Catalogue of Italian Maiolica in the Victoria & Albert Museum, London, 1940
Ceramiche orvietane dei secoli XIII et XIV

Labels and date

Dish (waster) enamelled buff earthenware, painted in dark manganese and green
Italian (Orvieto), first half of 15th century
[date crossed out by me and replaced with late 13th to early 14th century]
Bought from Alfred Spero, London [1928]
Dish (waster) of enamelled earthenware.
Italian (Orvieto), first half of 15th century
Bought [post 1928 and pre 1952]
Dish, earthenware. "Kiln-waster" dug up at Orvieto.
Italian (Orvieto), first half of 15th century [1952]
10. Dish with bird design
Italy (Orvieto), 1270-1330
Earthenware painted with colours into the opaque tin-glaze
Green and brown bold designs on a cross-hatched background are typical of wares from Orvieto.
Museum no. C.202-1928. Bought. [2007]

Production Note

Orvieto is in the Umbrian district of central Italy.


Buff earthenware; Tin glaze; Manganese oxide; Copper


Glazing; Painting

Subjects depicted

Bird; Eagle




Ceramics Collection

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