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Dish: Diana and Actaeon, Siena, tin-glazed eathernware, about 1495

Gallery label

Large Dish
Italian (Siena) c. 1490

This magnificent dish is decorated with a central scene illustrating the story of Diana and Actaeon, and the border with images of the battle between the Lapiths and Centaurs. It is acknowledged to be one of the most remarkable surviving examples of "istoriato" (narrative decoration on maiolica).

Collection of Sir William Holburne
Museum number: C 1
Italian, Siena, 1490-1500
Tin-glazed earthenware decorated in enamel colours

This dish is the finest piece of maiolica in Sir William Holburne's collection. He acquired it in 1859 from the famous Montferrand Collection. It was probably made as a piatto di pompa, that is for show, rather than for practical use.The dish depicts two stories from classical mythology: in the centre, the death of Actaeon, and around the rim, the battle of the Lapiths and Centaurs.The central scene shows the tragic moment in the story when Diana, while bathing with her nymphs, was detected by Actaeon and in her wrath sprinkled him with water. In so doing, she transformed him into a stag and in this guise he was hunted down and killed by his own hunting dogs. On the dish he is shown in half-transformed state, already under attack from his hounds. Over the scene is the inscription PEL AQA CHE MIGITASTI ADOSO CONTUOMANI FATO SOCERVIO EMORTO MANOCANI. ("By the water which thou hast cast on my back with thy hand I am made a stag and killed by the hand of my hounds")The border of the dish depicts the violent scenes that erupted at the wedding of the Lapith King Pirithous to Hippodamia when Eurytus, fiercest of the Centaurs, attempted to carry off the bride. The tale was vividly described in Ovid's Metamorphoses and decorated the Metopes of the frieze of the Parthenon in Athens.

Museum Number: C1
Dish: Diana and Actaeon
Italian (probably Siena)
Tin-glazed earthenware, about 1495
The inscription translates as: By the water which
thou hast cast upon me with thy hands I am made
a stag and killed by my hounds.
This magnificent dish is one of the world’s earliest
and most remarkable maiolica dishes depicting a
story. In the centre the hunter Actaeon is killed by
his own hounds after being turned into a stag by
the goddess Diana. Around the rim is the battle of
the Lapiths and Centaurs.

On display?

image c1 actaeon
image c-1 siena dish back
image A00932_IM00002
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image c1 actaeon image c-1 siena dish back image A00932_IM00002
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