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Plate with Romulus and Remus

Milan Marsyas painter

Urbino, c. 1530

26.6cm (diameter)

tin-glazed earthenware (maiolica)

This piece was formerly attributed to an artist known as the “Milan Marsyas painter” (named from a plate in the Castello Sforzesco Museum in Milan). He seems to have been active in Urbino around 1525-35, where he worked in close association with Nicola da Urbino and with Francesco Xanto Avelli. In fact, however, this and WA1888.CDEF.C442 seem to be by a different associate of Nicola da Urbino and rather closer to Nicola in style than the “Milan Marsyas painter”.

The story of Romulus and Remus, twin founders of the city of Rome, was well known in the Renaissance through Italian versions of Livy and Justin's epitome of Trogus Pompeius, as well as Plutarch. According to the legend, orders were given for the infants to be thrown into the Tiber but, cast ashore, they were tended and suckled by a she-wolf and eventually rescued by the royal herdsman Faustulus, who brought them up as his own children. On the right of the picture the maiolica painter has represented a river god, in an iconographical convention derived from Roman sculpture.

Lent from the Barlow Collection.  LI206.18