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  • Place of origin:

    Urbino (made)

  • Date:

    1535-38 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Nicola da Urbino (painter (artist))

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Tin-glazed earthenware painted with colours

  • Credit Line:

    Bequeathed by George Salting, Esq.

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    Ceramics, Room 145, case 28, shelf 2

This impressive dish is one of the best examples of the late style of the talented maiolica painter Nicola da Urbino, who was head of a workshop in the town up until his death around 1538.
This dish was part of a prestigious commission, made for, or given to, a member of the Gonzaga family; it bears the device of Federigo II Gonzaga, Duke of Mantua.
The device, representing Mount Olympus with the motto Fides (Loyalty), was granted to the Marquis by the Emperor Charles V in 1523 for his defence of Pavia in 1522. It is found frequently in the decoration of Gonzaga palaces, for example at Palazzo Te in Mantua.
The scene represented on the plate is the Rape of Helen and is adapted from a composition known to us from a print by Enea Vico dated 1542. Given that Nicola and the Duke Federigo had died before this date, the artist must have worked from an earlier, now lost, version.
A second plate, probably from the same set and also painted by Nicola, survives in the Museum Correr in Venice.

Physical description

Dish depicting the Rape of Helen.

Place of Origin

Urbino (made)


1535-38 (made)


Nicola da Urbino (painter (artist))

Materials and Techniques

Tin-glazed earthenware painted with colours

Marks and inscriptions

Chome paris rapi Elena al tenpio
How Paris seized Helen at the temple
Written in black on the reverse


Diameter: 45.5 cm

Descriptive line

Dish depicting the Rape of Helen, painted by Nicola da Urbino, Italy, about 1535-38

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

Rackham, Bernard. Catalogue of Italian maiolica. London : H.M.S.O., 1977.
Mallet, J. V. G. Gonzaga Patronage of Maiolica. Apollo. July 1981, no. 197
Chambers, David and Jane Martineau. Splendours of the Gonzaga. London : Victoria & Albert Museum, 1981. Catalogue entry 197, pp.200-201. Exhibition catalogue.
Tervarent, G. de. Kunstmuseet Årsskript. Copenhagen, 1950. 6 p., fig.4.
Considerazioni su Nicola da Urbino e le fonti delle sue composizioni su maiolica, J.V.G. Mallet, I della Rovere nell'Italia delle corti, conference proceedings, edited by G.C. Bojani, 2002
Rackham, Bernard. Catalogue of Italian Maiolica, London : H.M.S.O., 1977

Labels and date

Dish with the Abduction of Helen of Troy
Italy, Urbino, about 1533
Painted by Nicola da Urbino

The design is after an engraving by Enea Vico.
The dish was made for Federico II Gonzaga, Duke of Mantua
Tin-glazed earthenware

C.2246-1910 Salting Bequest [12/10/2008]


Ceramics; Maiolica


Ceramics Collection

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