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  • Place of origin:

    Orvieto (made)

  • Date:

    ca. 1375-1425 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:


  • Materials and Techniques:

    Earthenware covered with a thin tin-opacified lead glaze and painted

  • Credit Line:

    Given by Sydney Vacher

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    Ceramics, Room 137, The Curtain Foundation Gallery, case 36, shelf 2

Basins were important items for hygiene in the Middle Ages. Contemporary images show us that diners would wash their hands before and during meals. Decorated basins, such as this one, would hold floral and herbal scented water.

The decoration on this bowl is simple but elegantly painted to fit the concave structure. Images of fish were common in both the Middle East and in the West.

Basins with similar decoration have been attributed to ceramic production centres in Orvieto, in the Umbrian region of Italy. Documentary evidence informs us that Orivieto was a production centre from the 13th century. Ceramic manufacture here began to decline in the latter part of the 14th century as it was badly affected by the ravages of the Black Death.

This basin was said to have been found in Orvieto.In the late 19th and early 20th cetnries, the Italian government was investing in the redevelopment of towns such as Orivieto. A large number of medieval ceramics were discovered in the old water systems of the town such as in wells. Accurate dating of these ceramics was not possible but more recent excavations enable us to date these ceramics more precisely.

Green and brown decoration seems to have been characteristic of Orivieto production from its beginnings in the middle of the 13th century and into the 15th century. This simple colour scheme is also found in Tuscany, Liguria, and other centres bordering on the western Mediterranean in France and in Spain. Availibility of colouring agents and the popularity of this colour scheme influenced its spread and longevity.

Physical description

Basin with a flat base and flaring sides with narrow flat rim. Inside on the bottom, a fish in a medallion; round the sides a formal repeating leaf pattern painted in reserve in manganese. The outside covered with a yellow lead glaze.

Place of Origin

Orvieto (made)


ca. 1375-1425 (made)



Materials and Techniques

Earthenware covered with a thin tin-opacified lead glaze and painted

Descriptive line

Basin of buff-coloured earthenware, covered with a thin tin glaze and painted, Orvieto, ca. 1375-1425.

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

Bernard Rackham, Catalogue of Italian Maiolica in the Victoria & Albert Museum, London, 1940

Labels and date

Bowl of enamelled earthenware (maiolica), painted in manganese purple and green with a fish.
Found in a pozzo at Orvieto.
Italian, 14th or early 15th century
From the collections of Signor Avvocato Marcioni and Cavaliere Capitano Lucatelli [1914]
Basin of enamelled earthenware (maiolica) painted in manganese-purple and green.
Found at Orvieto.
Italian, late 14th or early 15th century
From the Marcioni-Lucatelli Collection [post 1914 and pre 1952]
Basin, earthenware
Dug up at Orvieto
Italian, first half of 15th century
Given by Mr. Sydney Vacher [1952]
12. Fragmentary basin with fish design
Italy (Orvieto), about 1375-1425
Earthenware painted with colours into the opaque tin-glaze
Fish are often found on ceramics made around the Mediterranean coast.
Museum no. C.330-1914. Bought. [2007]


Earthenware; Lead glaze


Painted; Glazed

Subjects depicted



Ceramics; Earthenware


Ceramics Collection

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