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Coffee cup with a putti holding a mirror

Castelli, c. 1700 - 1750

17.7cm (height); 17.6cm (diameter)

tin-glazed earthenware (maiolica)

The saucer illustrates a scene from the Book of Susanna, one of the shortest books in the Apocrypha. Susanna lived in Babylon and was the wife of Joacim, a man of some standing in the community. He was given to regularly entertaining two elderly judges who commanded much authority and respect in the city. These elders became consumed with lustful feelings for Susanna and resolved upon a plan to blackmail her into submitting to their advances. Assailing her in her garden while bathing, they threatened to publicly accuse her of adultery if she didn't comply. However, she refused and the next day an assembly condemned her to death upon the evidence of the elders. As she was about to be executed the Lord raised up the spirit of Daniel to speak for her and she was reprieved, the guilty elders being put to death instead. The subject became a favourite in the Renaissance. The design on this saucer is reversed from an engraving of the subject by Agostino Carracci [see illustration].

The cup with two winged putti holding a mirror was probably not originally matched with the saucer. The latter, with its deep well is of the so-called trembleuse type, designed for the safer carrying of liquids in the cup.

Gift of Gerald Reitlinger, 1978.  WA1978.172