Collection Highlights: Western Art
Maiolica plate painted with a head composed of penises
Francesco Urbini, 23.3 cm diameter, c.1530–37.
This shallow maiolica bowl stands on a low foot, and is painted on dark blue ground with a head composed of penises. On the scroll are the words : OGNI HOMO ME GUARDA COME FOSSE UNA TESTA DE CAZI (every man looks at me as if I were a head of dicks). On the reverse: 1536 El breve dentro voi legerite Come i giudei se intender el vorite (If you want to understand the meaning, you will be able to read the text like the Jews do), referring to the fact that the inscription on the scroll is written right to left; also marked on the reverse with the painter's mark FR and a pair of scales. Francesco Urbini was active in Gubbio and Deruta in the 1530s. This unparalleled plate is a Renaissance joke reflecting contemporary ideas about sexual explicitness in the writings of Pietro Aretino and others. The composite head recalls compositions by Leonardo da Vinci and prefigures the work of the painter Giuseppe Arcimboldo.
[Purchased (France, Madan and Miller Funds) with the aid of the National Art Collections Fund, the Resource/Victoria and Albert Museum Purchase Grant Fund, and numerous private donations, 2003. WA2003.136].
Second Floor, Room 43, Italian Renaissance