Ceremonial Vase

Bottega di Orazio Fontana

Urbino, Sixteenth century


Polychrome maiolica, 30 x 53cm

This vase was for ceremonial use as part of a pair with another similar vase in the Galleria Estense collections (inv. 2028). The entire surface is decorated with minute, classically inspired Raphaelesque painting. Candelabra, caryatids and fantastical animals surround medallions with black backgrounds against which white figurines stand out, imitating engraved gems or cameos. The painted decoration, further enriched with applique reliefs drawn from the repertoire of late Renaissance Mannerism, is indicative of the heights reached in Italian maiolica of this period.  

Adolfo Venturi compared this vase with examples which bore Duke Alfonso II d’Este’s blazing emblem and the motto Ardet Aeternum from the Louvre and South Kensington Museums, concluding that it was part of the wedding service commissioned by the Duke for his marriage to Margherita di Gonzaga in 1579. In reality, the absence of the emblem and motto on the Modenese exemplar suggests that it was commissionedbefore 1579, although still by the same Duke.