This dish forms part of the extraordinary and important series depicting episodes from the Second Punic War between the Romans and the Carthaginians in 219-217 B.C. The narrative illustrated on the pieces in the series follows the story as recounted by Livy, but the scenes do not correspond to the woodcuts in the Italian translation of Livy,
The present dish is the final known numbered piece in the series, and the subject is from the period after Hannibal's great victory at Cannae (216 B.C.). Hannibal tried to wear down the Romans by a war of attrition, and this dish shows the farms set alight by his troops in a bid to draw the Romans into battle. But the Consul Quintus Fabius Maximus (Fabius Cunctator), was the architect of eventual Roman victory by his stubborn refusal to be drawn into battle by Hannibal.
1. Livy's epic history of Rome Ab Urbe Condita (From the Founding of the City), comprising approximately 142 books, of which 35 books have survived, including the account of the events of the Second Punic War, see Rudolf Drey, ibid., pp. 56, note 2.
2. The unknown painter is classified by John Mallet in his sixth category of painters working in Guido Durantino's workshop. See J.V.G. Mallet, 'In Botega di Maestro Guido Durantino in Urbino', The Burlington Magazine, May 1987, p. 294.
3. The series is partially listed and discussed by Rudolf Drey, ibid., pp. 51-61, and this was supplemented by Timothy Wilson, Italian Maiolica of the Renaissance, Milan, 1996, pp. 291-2, note 2, where he also notes that in his view 'Drey's nos xxxiv - xlii are not part of the same service'. An additional, unrecorded, piece was sold in these Rooms on 24th May 2011, lot 34.
4. D. Thornton and T. Wilson, Italian Renaissance Ceramics, A Catalogue of the British Museum Collection, London, 2009, p. 326.
5. D. Thornton and T. Wilson, Italian Renaissance Ceramics, A Catalogue of the British Museum Collection, London, 2009, p. 326. They also record the extraordinary letter written by Ernst Ludwig Burckhardt, governor of Maggiatal, in 1735 which records a sighting of a large portion of a maiolica service depicting 'the history of Hannibal' in Locarno in Switzerland which had reputedly originally come from 'a Grand Duke of Florence'. They plausibly suggest that the fact that Burckhardt recorded it as being incomplete suggests that he saw numbered dishes.
6. Giovanni Conti, 'La Maiolica nel Museo del Bargello, Genesi e Fortuna di una Raccolta', Faenza, N. 3-6, 1969, p. 77, nos. 527-534.