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Dish from the Isabella d'Este Service

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Dish from the Isabella d'Este Service


Nicola di Gabriele Sbraghe da Urbino (painter) [ULAN info: Italian ceramist, d.1537/38]


tin-glazed earthenware
maiolica (sub-category)






Maiolica dish, painted in polychrome with, in the well, the arms of Gonzaga impaling Este, and, on the rim, Peleus and Thetis.

Earthenware, tin-glazed overall; the reverse pale beige and speckled. Painted in blue, green, yellow, orange, stone, brown, manganese-purple, black, and white. Shape 56. circular with broad, almost flat rim, and deep well; the underside of the rim moulded with three bands of reeding.In the well, within narrow blue and yellow concentric circles, two putti support a shield charged with the arms of Gonzaga impaling Este: argent, a cross patty gules cantoned by four eagles displayed sable (Gonzaga modern granted 1433), an escutcheon overall, quarterly, 1, 4, gules a lion rampant argent (Bohemia), 2, 3, barry of six or and sable (Gonzaga ancient) impaling Este, quarterly, 1, 4, azure three fleurs-de-lis or a bordure indented gules, 2, 3, azure an eagle displayed argent (gules shown orange throughout). Below on a scroll is the impresa `XXVII'. The sides are decorated in bianco sopra bianco with palmettes and scrolls, and a blue line encircles the shoulder. The rim is decorated with Peleus and Thetis. Peleus stands beneath a tree, gazing at Thetis, who sleeps nude on the ground in front of him. Further to the right she is transformed into a swan-like bird as he embraces her, and then into a dragon from which he turns away in horror. Higher up on the right, a goddess appears to Peleus who kneels before an altar. In the distance there is a mountainous landscape and sky. Suspended from the tree there is a shield of testa di cavallo form charged with the impresa of gold rods in a crucible surrounded by flames in a blue ground. The edge is yellow. On the back there is a narrow yellow band round the base and a wider band on the edge.

Production Notes

The figures were derived from a woodcut illustration in Giovanni dei Bonsignori's Ovidio methamorphoseos vulgare, Venice (Giovanni Rosso da Vercelli for Lucantonio Giunta), 1497 or a later edition.

Production Place

Urbino (painter) (place)

The Marches (painter) (region)

Italy (painter) (country)

Technique Description

earthenware, tin-glazed overall; the reverse pale beige and speckled. Painted in blue, green, yellow, orange, stone, brown, manganese-purple, black, and white.


height: (whole): 3.9 cm
diameter: (rim): 30.2 cm


16th century


circa 1524 to 1525


bought: Sotheby's 1938 (Filtered for: Applied Arts collection)

A member of the Rothschild family; Charles Damiron, Lyon; Sotheby's, 16 June 1938, Catalogue of the very choice collection of old Italian maiolica and Hispano-Moresque ware the property of Monsieur Damiron, 8 vue Vaubecour, Lyons, p. 63, lot 63.

Purchased with the Glaisher fund


  1. label
    Position: on the back
    Method: printed in black and inscribed in faded black ink
    Content: 'UNION/1555/3657/CENTRALE'
    Description: Rectangular with cut corners, printed in black `UNION/CENTRALE' and inscribed in faded black ink with `155/3657' between the two words
    Interpretation: Label for an exhibition in Paris


  1. Rackham, Bernard (1937) The Damiron Collection of Italian Maiolica II, London [page: 256]
    Source title: Apollo (November 1937)
    [comments: Publ. Mentioned and illustrated p. 256, fig. VIII]
  2. Liverani, Giuseppe (1938) Ancora nuovi piatti del servizio d'Isabella d'Este-Gonzaga, Faenza [page: 92]
    Source title: Faenza (1938)
    [comments: Publ. Mentioned on p. 92, and illustrated pl. XXII. Other dishes from the services are listed.]
  3. Chompret, Joseph, Dr (1949) Répertoire de la majolique italienne, Colmar, Paris [page: 16]
    [comments: Publ. Vol. II, p. 16, fig. 120, and see vol. I, p. 30]
  4. Tervarent, Guy de Schoutheete de (1951) Enquête sur le sujet des majoliques, Copenhagen [page: 20]
    Source title: Saertryk af Kunstmuseets Årsskrift (1950)
    [comments: Publ. See p. 20, fig. 21, and text pp. 18-21.]
  5. Rackham, Bernard (1963) Italian Maiolica, London: Faber & Faber [page: 23]
    [comments: Publ. Illustrated pl. 69, and see text p. 23. Also illustrated on pl. 69 in the first edition of 1952.]
  6. Haggar, Reginald (1960) The Concise Encyclopedia of Continental Pottery and Porcelain, London: André Deutsch
    [comments: Publ. Illustrated pl. 90A]
  7. Wallen, Burr E. (1966) A Maiolica Service for Isabella d'Este, New York University, Institute of Fine Arts: Unpublished [page: 67-8]
    [comments: Publ. No. 5, and figs. 58,60. This thesis provides details of the other known pieces, except for a then undiscovered fragmentary dish.]
  8. Chambers, David (1981) Splendours of the Gonzaga, London [page: 177-8]
    [comments: Publ. No. 136.]
  9. Wilson, Timothy (1990) Xanto and Ariosto, London [page: 247]
    Source title: Burlington Magazine (May 1990)
    [comments: Publ. Illustrated no. 67.3. Cf. p. 160 under no. 116 where other dishes from the service are listed]
  10. Wilson, Timothy (1995) Art on the Table, London [page: 72]
    Source title: Country Life (21 September 1995)
    [comments: Publ. Illustrated, fig. 2]
  11. (1995) Le maioliche italiane del Fitzwilliam in mostra, Ferrara: Belriguardo [page: 16]
    Source title: CeramicAntica (October 1995)
    [comments: Publ. Illustrated in colour]
  12. Bojani, Gian Carlo (1995) Ceramiche italiane a Cambridge/Italian Pottery in Cambridge, [page: 14]
    Source title: D'Arigianato (December 1995)
    [comments: Publ. Illustrated fig. 1.]
  13. Tamplin, Anne-Noelle (1995) Potted History, London [page: 46]
    Source title: The Antique Collector (Nov/Dec 1995)
    [comments: Publ. p. 46, partially illustrated in article advertising the Fitzwilliam's maiolica exhibition of 1995]
  14. Poole, Julia E. (1995) Italian Maiolica and Incised Slipware in the Fitzwilliam Museum Cambridge, Cambridge (Cambs.): Cambridge University Press [page: 304-7]
    [comments: Publ. No. 376 for a full description of the dish, its design, coat of arms and imprese, and references to publications on the other dishes in the service.]
  15. Poole, Julia E. (1997) Fitzwilliam Museum Handbooks, Italian Maiolica, Cambridge (Cambs.): Cambridge University Press [page: 58-9]
    [comments: Publ. pp. 58-9, no. 24]
  16. (2005) Treasures of the Fitzwilliam Museum, London: Scala [page: 135]
    [comments: Publ.]
  17. Richards, Peter (2004) Earth and Fire, Cambridge (Cambs.): University of Cambridge Development Office [page: 28]
    Source title: Cam, Cambridge Alumni Magazine (Easter Term 2004)
    [comments: Publ. p. 28 short text with colour illustration]
  18. Ovid (Publius Ovidius Naso) (1916, reprinted 1976) Ovid in Six Volumes IV Metamorphoses with an English translation by Frank Justus Miller, II, Books IX-XV, Cambridge (Mass.) and London: Loeb [page: 134-9]
    [comments: Ref. For the myth of Peleus and Thetis, see Book XI, lines 217-65.]
  19. Bonsignori, Giovanni dei (1497) Ovidio methamorphoseos vulgare, Venice: Giovanni Rosso da Vercelli for Lucantonio Giunta
    [comments: Ref. For the woodcut illustration on which the design on the dish was derived, see fol. LXXXXIIII verso. Nicola may have used a later edition of this work which had the same cuts, for example, with a Latin text, Parma, (Francesco Mazzali), 1505 which is in the library of the Fitzwilliam Museum.]
  20. Praz, Mario (1981) The Gonzaga Devices, London [page: 65-6]
    Source title: Splendours of the Gonzaga (1981)
    [comments: Ref. For Isabella d'Este's imprese, and citations of earlier literature.]
  21. Negroni, Franco (1985) Nicolò Pellipario: ceramista fantasma, Urbino: Università degli Studi, Istituto di Storia dell'Arte [page: 13-20]
    Source title: Notizie da Palazzo Albani (1985)
    [comments: Ref. For documentary evidence for the identification of Nicola da Urbino as Nicola di Gabriele Sbraghe]
  22. Christie's Paris (2009) 500 Ans Arts Décoratifs Européens, Colmar, Paris: Christie's [page: 24-26] 17 December 2009)
    [comments: Cf. pp. 24-26, lot 50, a plate with central arms musical notes below, Atalanta's race against Hippomenes, NEC SPE/NEC METV, lottery tickets on shield, and XXV/II on pedestal on extreme right, d. 27.5 cm. Estimate: £90,000-130,000/E 100,000-150,000]

Other Notes

The potter, Nicola di Gabriele Sbraghe, known as Nicola da Urbino, was a workshop owner in Urbino from at least 1520 until his death at the end of 1537 or in January 1538. He was also a brilliant maiolica painter, whose work has been identified by comparison with five pieces of istoriato maiolica monogrammed or signed by him. Nicola painted in an exquisitely delicate manner, and was unusually imaginative in his adaptation of printed sources and in the creation of architectural and landscape backgrounds. His output of the 1520s, which includes several armorial services, is regarded as the acme of maiolica decoration.

Accession Number

EC.30-1938 (Applied Arts)
(Reference Number: 47188; Input Date: 2002-05-04 / Last Edit: 2011-07-22)

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