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The Contest between Apollo and Pan

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The Contest between Apollo and Pan


Milan Marsyas Painter attributed to (painter)


tin-glazed earthenware






Maiolica bowl with broad rim, painted in polychrome with The Contest between Apollo and Pan.

Bowl with broad rim. Pale buff earthenware, tin-glazed overall; the glaze on the reverse pale beige, unevenly distributed and tinged with green in several places. There are eight minor flaws in the upper surface. Painted in blue, green, yellow, orange, brown, black, and white. Shape 57. Circular with a wide, almost flat rim and small, deep well; the underside of the rim moulded with three bands of reeding. The Contest between Apollo and Pan. On the left, Pan sits on a tree stump holding his pipes. Apollo stands on the right, looking away from his adversary and holding a bow and a lira da braccio. There is a small tree behind Pan and a taller one in the middle. Suspended between their branches, there is a shield of Tuscan form charged with the arms azure, three crescents addorsed argent (one above and two below). In the foreground there is a path, and in the background, a hill town in a landscape. The edge is yellow. On the back, two yellow bands encircle the edge.

Production Place

Urbino (painter) (place)

The Marches (painter) (region)

Italy (painter) (country)

Technique Description

Pale buff earthenware, tin-glazed overall; the glaze on the reverse pale beige, unevenly distributed and tinged with green in several places. Painted in blue, green, yellow, orange, brown, black, and white.


height: (whole): 3.0 cm
diameter: (whole): 19.7 cm


16th century


circa 1530


given: de Pass, Alfred A. 1933 (Filtered for: Applied Arts collection)

Given by A.A. De Pass


  1. label
    Method: printed in black
    Description: oval


  1. Rackham, Bernard The De Pass pottery in the Fitzwilliam Museum, [page: pp. 246-7]
    Source title: Connoisseur (April 1934)
    [comments: Publ. p. 246, pl. IV & p. 247]
  2. Mallet, J.V.G. (1988) Xanto: i suoi compagni e seguaci, Rovigo [page: p. 93]
    Source title: Francesco Xanto Avelli da Rovigo, Atti del Convegno Internazionale di Studi (
    [comments: Publ. pp. 67-84, ill. p. 93, pl. 4 upper. Attributed to the Milan Marsyas Painter, c.1530.]
  3. Poole, Julia E. (1995) Italian Maiolica and Incised Slipware in the Fitzwilliam Museum Cambridge, Cambridge (Cambs.): Cambridge University Press [page: pp. 316-7]
    [comments: Publ. pp. 316-7, no. 381]
  4. Panayotova, Stella (2008) I Turned It Into a Palace, Sydney Cockerell and the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge (Cambs.): The Fitzwilliam Museum [page: 66]
    [comments: Publ. p. 66, fig. 2.9 right in colour]

Other Notes

The musical contest between Apollo and Pan is described in Ovid's Metamorphoses, Book XI, 153-71. The figure of Pan may have been inspired by the woodcut in Ouidio methamorphoseos vulgare, Venice, 1497, or later editions, but the likeness is not close. In the text Apollo has a lyre and holds a plectrum in his right hand, whereas on the dish he has a lira da braccio and a bow. This instrument resembled a viola or violin, but had a shallower bridge, a leaf-shaped peg box facing the front, and a wider finger-board with five melody strings running over it and two strings beside it which served as drones. During the Renaissance the lira da braccio was believed to be of ancient origin and was associated especially with Orpheus and Apollo. For this reason it was favoured as accompaniment to the recitation of poetry by professional poet--musicians, and by courtly amateurs such as Raphael and Castiglione. In pictorial representations of Apollo's contests with Pan or Marsyas, it symbolized the triumph of harmonious and ordered music over the wildness of the rustic pan pipes.

Accession Number

C.133-1933 (Applied Arts)
(Reference Number: 79980; Input Date: 2002-07-05 / Last Edit: 2011-04-28)

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