History of an erotic Roman drinking cup, £5.00
Diameter: 27.200 cm
Height: 4.000 cm
Room 46: Europe 1400-1800
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Maiolica plate with the arms of Pietro Bembo
From Urbino, Marche, Italy, about AD 1539-47
Based on a design by Michaelangelo
The development in Italy by around 1500 of istoriato ('story-painted') maiolica involved the use of a wide range of sources as models for maiolica painters. Most common were graphic sources like engravings, drawings or woodcut book illustrations. German engravings by Martin Schongauer (about 1450-91) and Albrecht Dürer (1471-1528), for example, were widely copied in Italy in the first quarter of the sixteenth century. By around 1520, however, Italian engravings became the most popular source material, due to the widespread influence of the major artists such as Raphael and Michaelangelo, and the subsequent numerous engravings based on their work, produced by associates such as Marcantonio Raimondi (about 1480-1534) and Agostino Veneziano (1490-1540). This plate is based on Agostino Veneziano's engraving after Michelangelo's design of 1504 for a mural for the Palazzo Vecchio in Florence. The subject was the Battle of Cascina (1364), which took place in a war between the city-states of Florence and Pisa. This particular scene depicts soldiers, who, while bathing in the River Arno, were called to arms.
Pietro Bembo (1470-1547) was a renowned Venetian scholar and writer, writing one of the earliest Italian grammars and helping to establish the Italian literary language. He was made a cardinal in 1539. He was also famed as a collector of ancient and contemporary art.
T. Wilson, Ceramic art of the Italian Ren, exh. cat. (London, The British Museum Press, 1987)
L. Syson and D.F. Thornton, Objects of virtue: art in Rena (London, The British Museum Press, 2001)