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Plate with the children of Niobe

Padova (Padua); Venice, c. 1550

28.7cm (diameter)

tin-glazed earthenware (maiolica)

Another tale from Ovid, from book 6 of the Metamorphoses, on the familiar tragic themes of hubris and nemesis. Niobe, who was married to Amphion, King of Thebes, became so arrogantly proud of her fourteen children that she deemed herself more fortunate than the goddess Latona, mother of Apollo and Diana. Proclaiming her superiority in public, she drove the Thebans from Latona's shrine. Retribution came when Apollo and Diana slew all her children with arrows. Grief-stricken, Niobe retired to Mount Sipylus where she was turned to stone. The story underwent transformation at the hands of a good many ancient writers, the number of Niobe's children varying from six to twenty.

This is another example of istoriato painting on a blue-grey (berettino) glaze. A number of such works are marked as made in Padua, and this was Fortnum's attribution for the piece, but the differentiation of Paduan and Venetian maiolica from the second half of the 16th century remains problematic.

A somewhat similar dish (on a white glaze) was sold at Christie’s, London, 4 July 1988, lot 248.

Presented by C. D. E. Fortnum, 1888.  WA1888.CDEF.C497

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