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Bowl and cover from a birth set

Urbino, c. 1540 - 1550

10.4cm (depth); 16.5cm (diameter); cover: 18.1cm (diameter)

tin-glazed earthenware (maiolica)

Inside the cup is a scene of three women with a child; around the outside is a landscape. On the top of the cover is an angel with a sword and two women, unidentified but perhaps an Old Testament subject; on the underside is an angel with a pair of dividers. The iconography of these scenes awaits investigation.

These are probably pieces from one of the stacking sets described by Cipriano Piccolpasso in his Tre libri dell’arte del vasaio (c. 1557) as being made to contain broth and as presents for women who had just given birth [see illustration]; but the iconography is less closely related to childbirth than in some cases, such as WA1888.CDEF.C456. For these sets, see J. Musacchio, The Art and Ritual of Childbirth in Renaissance Italy (New Haven and London, 1999).

Lent from a private collection.  LI192.6

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