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Work Dish with the arms of the Pucci family of Florence

Department of Decorative Arts: Renaissance

Dish with the arms of the Pucci family of Florence

© 2010 RMN / Jean-Gilles Berizzi

Decorative Arts
Renaissance

Author(s):
Ducrot Brigitte

The Louvre collections include several Renaissance dishes from costly services decorated with coats of arms and legendary or historical scenes, which are thought to have come originally from Urbino. This dish is part of a thirty-seven-piece service bearing the arms of the Pucci family, painted by Francesco Xanto Avelli, one of the greatest artists of the Urbino school, in 1532-33. The "istoriato" decoration alludes to a sonnet by Petrarch, inscribed on the back of the plate.

An unknown patron

This celebrated dish is part of a large service made in Urbino in 1532-33. The thirty-seven extant pieces are now dispersed (Cambridge, London, Saint Petersburg, Washington). All bear a coat of arms featuring the head of a Moor wearing a headband (identified as those of the Pucci, an important Florentine family) beneath a circular tented canopy, an ancient emblem of the Christian church. There is still some debate about who commissioned this service: experts are no longer agreed that it was intended for Piero Maria Pucci, a dignitary at the pontifical court of Leo X and Clement VII.

A famous artist

On the reverse of this dish is the signature of Francesco Xanto Avelli da Rovigo (active from 1530-42), one of the great Urbino artists working under the patronage of Francesco Maria della Rovere, and one of the most prolific ceramic artists of the Italian Renaissance. The service's learned iconographical program draws on Biblical, mythological and literary sources to illustrate and comment on historical events of the time. The complex iconography of this depiction of the Curse of Rome (?) may be seen as a denunciation of the decadent papal court in Avelli's time. An inscription on the reverse is taken from Petrarch's sonnet Fiamma dal Ciel:
"May fire from Heaven rain down on your tresses, wicked one, since doing ill pleases you so..." (trans. Durling, Harvard University Press 1976). The composition is based on motifs from contemporary prints, including engravings after Raphael (for the central figure) by Marcantonio Raimondi. This marshaling of disparate sources is characteristic of Avelli's compositional technique.

Urbino and Gubbio

"Istoriato" decoration of the type seen here established the fame of Italian maiolica ware throughout Europe. The scene is treated here in a strong palette of oranges, blues and greens, enhanced by a metallic luster achieved by low firing (or muffle firing), a technique not seen in Urbino before the end of the 1530s. The dish may well have been sent to Gubbio to be finished: Gubbio enjoyed a reputation as a center of excellence in the production of lusterware, to which items were sent for finishing from all over Italy.

Bibliography

Giacomotti Jeanne, Catalogue des majoliques des musées nationaux : musées du Louvre et de Cluny, Musée national de céramique à Sèvres, Musée Adrien-Dubouché à Limoges, Paris, Éditions de la Réunion des musées nationaux, 1974, p. 263-264, n 849.

Louvre. Guide du visiteur. Les Objets d'art. Moyen-Age et Renaissance, Paris, Editions de la Réunion des Musées nationaux, 1994, p. 110.

Technical description

  • Francesco XANTO AVELLI

    Dish with the arms of the Pucci family of Florence

    1532

    Urbino (Marche, Italy), Gubbio (for the luster)

  • Earthenware, high-fired decoration, lusterware

    H: 4.00 cm; Diam.: 38.00 cm.

  • Baronne Salomon de Rothschild bequest, 1922

    OA 7588

  • Decorative Arts

    Richelieu wing
    1st floor
    Gallery of The Hunts of Maximilian
    Room 19

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Additional information about the work

Blue inscription on the back from Petrarch's sonnet no. 136: "Fiamma dal Ciel su le tue treccie piova,malvagia che dal fiume et da le ghia(n) dep(er) laltrui impoverir" Painter's signature