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Work Fragment of a dish

Department of Decorative Arts: Renaissance

Fond de plat : Le Parnasse,

© 2008 RMN / Jean-Gilles Berizzi

Decorative Arts

Ducrot Brigitte

The signature on the reverse of this pottery fragment makes it an important reference in the history of istoriato (narrative) ware of the Italian Renaissance. Only five pieces are known to have the mark of the maiolica painter Nicola da Urbino, some of whose major works are in the Louvre. The artist has depicted here the upper part of a scene, from an engraving by Marcantonio Raimondi after the Parnassus of Raphael, showing Apollo on Parnassus.

Istoriato or narrative decoration

Istoriato decoration, which originated in the late fifteenth century, is traditionally associated with the town of Faenza, which gave its name to "faience" pottery. Its surface, covered in a thick, opaque white glaze, was an ideal "canvas" for actually painting on ceramics. This style of decoration was widely adopted by workshops elsewhere in the country, and Italian maiolica became famous throughout Europe. From the 1520s, Urbino was one of the most important centers for production of istoriato ware, thanks to the skills of workshops including those of Guido Durantino, Nicola da Urbino, and, later, Francesco Xanto Avelli.

The signature of a renowned workshop

This fragment, the bottom of a dish, probably owes its preservation to the signature on the reverse, that of Nicola da Urbino (ca. 1480-1538), one of the most famous of Italian maiolica painters. Of all his voluminous, high-quality production, only five pieces, in St. Petersburg, Florence, London, and Novellara, bear his name or monogram. Others pieces have been attributed to him on the basis of stylistic comparison. Strong designs, fine compositions, and a cool, delicate palette distinguish the work of this painter, the head of a great workshop.

After Raphael

The decoration of the fragment is interesting not only for its intrinsic quality, but also because its inspiration was a lost drawing by Raphael, for his fresco in the Stanza della Segnatura in the Vatican, known only from an engraving by Marcantonio Raimondi. The fragment shows the upper part of a scene with Apollo, god of music and poetry, surrounded by the Muses on Mount Parnassus. A more complete representation of the subject can be seen on several dishes in the collections of the Louvre, the Musée Vivenel in Compiègne, and the Kunstgewerbemuseum in Berlin.


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, pp. 254-255, n 824.

Louvre. Guide du visiteur. Les Objets d'art. Moyen-Age et Renaissance, Paris, Editions de la Réunion des Musées nationaux, 1994, p. 108.

Assante di Panzillo Maryline, La Majolique italienne de la Renaissance (II), feuillet de salle n 6/35.

Technical description

  • Nicola di Gabriele SBRAGA, dit Nicola da URBINO

    Fond de plat : Le Parnasse,

    Vers 1525 - 1528


  • Faïence

    D. : 14 cm.

  • Don Charles Sauvageot, 1856 , 1856

    d'après une gravure de Raphaël

    OA 1244

  • Decorative Arts

    Richelieu wing
    1st floor
    Gallery of The Hunts of Maximilian
    Room 507

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Additional information about the work

Elmonto de pernasio con le nour muse et apollo [monogram] da Urbino1244G 324