Maiolica Basin Showing the Triumphs of Julius Caesar
Urbino, c.1565-75
Gallery 53, Decorative Arts of the Renaissance, Fortnum Gallery, Gallery 53,
First Floor


Focus on the Object

The Decoration

The basin shows the campaigns and triumphs of Julius Caesar. The three outer panels are painted with scenes of barbarians surrendering to Caesar, while the centre shows the ‘submission of the English’. Surrounding these delicately painted panels are grotesques on a white background, as was the trend in up-market maiolica at this time. On the reverse of the basin are three pairs of swans.

Historical context

The court of the Della Rovere Dukes of Urbino was a hive of cultural activity and patronage during the Renaissance, and maiolica was a local speciality. Around 1560, Duke Guidobaldo II of Urbino placed one of the most prestigious orders in the history of maiolica, commissioning a series of drawings of Caesar’s triumphs from the artist Taddeo Zuccaro for a maiolica service which he presented to King Philip II of Spain.
No piece of this original set survives, but it seems the Urbino painters made great use of the designs over the next thirty years. This three-lobed basin is one of the most elaborate examples using these original images.