Maiolica dish by Giulio da Urbino

From Gubbio, Umbria, Italy, AD 1534

An allegory of the Sack of Rome

In 1527 troops of the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V (reigned 1519-56) attacked Rome. The brutal atrocities and devastation of the city were seen as a moral and divine punishment: the troops of the Christian Emperor had destroyed the corruption of the papal city of the Medici Pope Clement VII (reigned 1523-34).

On this dish, the semi-naked soldier stands for Charles V, who is pulling at one wing of the cherub who represents the Pope. The Medici device, a sphere, used in reference to the six spheres on the Medici arms, can be seen on the cherub's shoulders. The three naked women may represent the delights and pleasures of Rome, perhaps alluding to the inscription on the back of the dish, ‘D'amorosi pe[n]sieri gli animi in gombro' ('I encumber mens' souls with thoughts of love'). The individuals who bought or commissioned this type of elaborate istoriato (story-painted) maiolica - which was an élite taste - would have readily understood the political and historical messages conveyed.

This dish is one of only two known pieces signed by Giulio da Urbino, a talented painter who worked closely with the celebrated maiolica painter, Francesco Xanto Avelli (active 1530-42) in Urbino. He moved to Rimini in 1534/5 and played an important role in the spread of the 'Urbino style' of maiolica.

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More information


D. Thornton, NACF Review (1997), p. 86

D. Thornton, 'An allegory of the Sack of Rome', Apollo-10 (June 1999)


Diameter: 26.700 cm

Museum number

M&ME 1997,4-1,1


Purchased with the assistance of the National Art Collections Fund


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