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Plate with the heroism of Mucius Scaevola

Firenze (Florence), 1547

1645cm (weight); 39.3cm (diameter)

tin-glazed earthenware (maiolica)

The story is one of the famous episodes of ancient Roman heroism made popular in the Renaissance by Valerius Maximus (III,iii). When Porsenna, King of the Etruscans, brought an army against Rome, Scaevola set out to try to assassinate him. When he proved unsuccessful and was captured by the Etruscans, he demonstrated his defiance and contempt for pain by holding his hand over an open flame. Porsenna was so impressed by this that he let him go free. The irrelevant landscape and animal border is unusual and charming.

The factory mark SP (the P crossed), is a characteristic mark of the potters or painters from the villa workshop at Cafaggiolo, north of Florence. The Cafaggiolo factory was founded in 1498 by potters from Montelupo, a major pottery centre on the Arno down river from Florence, and in the following half-century the family-run pottery produced some of the most striking of all Renaissance maiolica. Inscribed with SP in monogram; G and in gAliano Nellano 1547. This plate is the work of a painter who also signed `.A.f.' (the `f' probably for `fecit') on several plates marked as made in Cafaggiolo. This plate and one in the Bargello in Florence, dated 1552 and painted by a different hand, are the sole evidence of production in the nearby village of Gagliano. No graphic source for the composition has been found, but it seems to echo a drawing in a sketchbook in Lille attributed to Jacopo Ripanda.

Presented by C. D. E. Fortnum, 1888.  WA1888.CDEF.C410

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