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AN URBINO MAIOLICA DISH FROM THE PUNIC WAR SERIES
AN URBINO MAIOLICA DISH FROM THE PUNIC WAR SERIES
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AN URBINO MAIOLICA DISH FROM THE PUNIC WAR SERIES

CIRCA 1545-60, PROBABLY WORKSHOP OF GUIDO DURANTINO

Details
AN URBINO MAIOLICA DISH FROM THE PUNIC WAR SERIES
CIRCA 1545-60, PROBABLY WORKSHOP OF GUIDO DURANTINO
Painted with Hannibal seated at the end of a street lined with buildings with towers, two soldiers with him, the farms in the countryside to the right in flames, within a blue line and ochre band rim, the centre of the reverse inscribed ·111· Annibal sa che Fabio fa soldati E abbruscia, i, campi e, i, luoghi mal guardati. in blue, within concentric ochre bands (fine crack from rim to well at 11 o'clock, area of slight chipping to rim between 8 and 9 o'clock)
9½ in. (24 cm.) diam.
Provenance
Anonymous sale; Christie's, London, 22 June 1965, lot 48.
Literature
Rudolf E.A. Drey, 'Istoriato maiolica with scenes from the Second Punic War. Livy's history of Rome as source material', in T. Wilson, (ed.), Italian Renaissance Pottery, Papers written in association with a colloquium at the British Museum, London, 1991, p. 54, no. xxxiii and p. 60, fig. 11.
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VAT rate of 5% is payable on hammer price and at 20% on the buyer's premium.

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Lot Essay

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,1 and it appears that no print source has been found for any of the known pieces in the series. All the known pieces bear the same beautiful handwriting on the reverses, and it is possible that the couplets could have been provided by a courtly scholar. The quality of the decoration and the style is fairly consistent throughout, and the majority of the pieces appear to be by the same anonymous hand,2 but it is possible that more than one hand was involved. The series can be divided into two categories; the first sharing a feature of an oval-shaped patch of the sky which is a slightly paler hue, suggesting that the inclusion of a coat-of-arms was once intended but abandoned, and the second group bear sequential numbers on their reverses before the inscribed couplets.3 The ambition of the series with its 'uniquely extensive and systematic treatment of a subject from classical history',4 the consistent quality of the scenes and handwriting on the reverses all suggest that the series was almost certainly once a princely service. The original destination of the service does not appear to have been documented, but Thornton and Wilson argue that it is highly probable that the service once belonged to the Medici Grand Dukes of Tuscany,5 and the 1784 Medici inventory appears to contain plates from the service.6

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.

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