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Maiolica Drinking Vessels

Sacred Water

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From the Latin aqua, “water” and manus“hands”, the aquamanile originally had liturgical use, for the ablutions of the priest during mass. Appearing originally in the Middle East, aquamanile were used in Europe from the beginning of the Middle Ages. Usually made of metal or bronze, they gradually took on a more prosaic function, being used as a tabletop fountain for washing hands during meals. The aquamanile was still an essential item on the Prince’s table in the late fifteenth century. Before the meal all presents would wash their hands, the guests using a tabletop fountain and the Prince with the Aquamanile. This act was not for hygienic purposes but was a way of purifying themselves before touching food. It was a rite of passage between the ordinary and everyday and the extraordinary, themoment of the meeting. Made exclusively for the Prince or for the Holy worship, the aquamanile was therefore an object of some importance in the Princely cult and our object is one of the finest examples thanks to its rich ornamentation. Examples in Italian maiolica are of great rarity and only two other models are now known: the first, formerly on the Sprovieri collection, is preserved in the collection of the Fondazione della Cassa di Risparmio di Perugiaandthe second one at the Victoria& Albert museumin London.Our example is unique and surprising for its sculptural ambition. Here the cylindrical body of the vessel is replaced by horse and the handle, now repaired is hidden at the back of the rider with the spout being concealed in his chest. In this way the function of the object is completely subjugated by the high quality of the sculpture. Ouraquamanile should be linked with an extraordinarily sculptural tabletop fountain in the Victoria & Albert museum, London. The subject of this extravagant group is the god Mercury wearing his winged hat offering the apple to the dreaming Paris, unusually dressed in armor, lying sleeping beside his horse which is reined to a tree. These two pieces of Courtly tableware share similarities in terms of sculpture and decoration: the figures of horses are strikingly similar. These features lead us to believe that these works were carried out by the same artist perhaps for the same Princely table

Pilgrims' Tears

Maiolica Pilgrim Flask collectors piece.

Amongst the drinking vessels, ewers played a key role. Sometimes of a very elaborate form, as shown in Cipriano Picolpasso’s drawing in histreaty Li tri libri dell’arte del vasaio. Therich palette and intricate pattern intended to give the piece a jewel like aspect, as precious as silver. Ewers were sometimes en suitewith basin or either used as a single object. Other objects which were demonstrably intended for use include the puzzle jug. Mentioned in various inventories towards the end of the sixteenth century, the only purpose of the puzzle jug is to amuse and entertain, a task it can only fulfil when picked up and held in the hand. Such a complex and intricate design is an exampleof the lengths the potters were prepared to go and illustrate the shift in taste from the beginning of the sixteenth century, with its emphasis on humanistic decoration

Riddles and Jewels

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Amongst the drinking vessels, ewers played a key role. Sometimes of a very elaborate form, as shown in Cipriano Picolpasso’s drawing in histreaty Li tri libri dell’arte del vasaio. Therich palette and intricate pattern intended to give the piece a jewel like aspect, as precious as silver. Ewers were sometimes en suitewith basin or either used as a single object. Other objects which were demonstrably intended for use include the puzzle jug. Mentioned in various inventories towards the end of the sixteenth century, the only purpose of the puzzle jug is to amuse and entertain, a task it can only fulfil when picked up and held in the hand. Such a complex and intricate design is an exampleof the lengths the potters were prepared to go and illustrate the shift in taste from the beginning of the sixteenth century, with its emphasis on humanistic decoration

Water of Venus

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Pear-shaped ewer on pedestalfoot, with flared neck, cut-out pouring spout and simple archinghandle. The belly is decorated with three subjects inspired by the story of Venus, her birth and her triumph, including the goddess emerging from the waters, standing on a conchshell, sails inflated by the wind, the goddess riding two dolphins, escorted by nereidsand accompanied byNeptune standing on two seahorses. The shoulder, marked at the edge of the body by a thick white thread in a gold gap, is decorated with asymmetrical female masks and a lion's head maskunder the handle, Undeneath, framed by gold nets and foliage, a vigorous head of a grimacing fury Medusa with large golden wingscan be seen.The artist was inspired by three important iconographic sources: an engraving by Marcantonio Raimondi (c. 1480-1534), after a fresco by Raphael for the Birth of Venus, another by the Master of the Die, Bernado Daddi (c. 1512-1570), for the Triumph of Venus and finally the central figure of Marcantonio Raimondi's Quos Ego for Neptune and the seahorses. The style of Jean III Pénicaud, grandson of Nardon Pénicaud and nephew of Pierre Pénicaud, with whom hehas often been compared, is characterized by theuse,perfectly illustrated here,of a deep blue enamel on which stands out a brighterwhite enamel. enhanced with gold to create depth, and by the elongated design of his figures in the manner of Primaticcioor Rosso from whomhe was inspired. The fluidity and transparency of his draperies, the abundant use of gold, are also the mark of his taste for decorative motifs, masks, garlands and antique silhouettes.