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  • Place of origin:

    Orvieto (made)

  • Date:

    ca. 1375-1450 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:


  • Materials and Techniques:

    Earthenware covered with a thin tin-opacified lead glaze and painted in a blackish pigment and copper green

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    Ceramics, Room 137, The Curtain Foundation Gallery, case 37, shelf 4

Bowls were important items for dining in the Middle Ages. Dinner plates, such as we use today, were not created until the latter part of the 15th century. Food in the Middle Ages was often presented in the form of a pottage or stew. Meat and vegetables would be served in a broth and bowls were ideal for holding this. After the Black Death, more animals were being raised in the countryside for consumption and this would ultimately result in a change in dining habits and the items used to hold and serve food.

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

Bowls 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 bowl 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

Buff coloured earthenware small bowl. Painted on the inside in a dark pigment and in copper green with a bird holding a long sprig of foliage in its beak and which continues behind its head. On the outside there is a painted wavy line going all the way around the bowl, painted in copper green.

Place of Origin

Orvieto (made)


ca. 1375-1450 (made)



Materials and Techniques

Earthenware covered with a thin tin-opacified lead glaze and painted in a blackish pigment and copper green

Object history note

Bought for £5 from Dr. D. Fuschini of Orvieto (London address)

Descriptive line

Bowl, tin-glazed earthenware painted, Orvieto, ca. 1375-1450

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

Bernard Rackham, Catalogue of Italian Maiolica in the Victoria & Albert Museum, London, 1940
Alessandro Imbert, Ceramiche Orvietane dei secoli XIII e XIV, Roma, 1909
La ceramica orvietana del medioevo, exhibition catalogue, Milano, 1983
Galeazzo Cora, Storia della maiolica di Firenze e del contado secoli XIV e XV

Labels and date

Bowl of earthenware.
Italian (Orvieto), late 15th or early 16th century [1912]
Bowl of enamelled buff-coloured earthenware, painted in black and turquoise-blue. [post 1912 and pre 1952]
Found in excavations at Orvieto.
14th or early 15th century [post 1912 and pre 1952]
Bowl, earthenware. Dug up at Orvieto.
Italian, late 14th or early 15th century [1952]
11. Small bowl with bird
Italy (Orvieto), 1375-1450
Earthenware painted with colours into the opaque tin-glaze
The bird with foliage in its beak probably copies designs from Islamic ceramics.
Museum no. C.175-1912. Bought. [2007]


Earthenware; Lead glaze


Glazing; Painting

Subjects depicted



Ceramics; Earthenware


Ceramics Collection

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