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AN URBINO ISTORIATO DISH
AN URBINO ISTORIATO DISH
AN URBINO ISTORIATO DISH
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AN URBINO ISTORIATO DISH

CIRCA 1530, THE REVERSE INSCRIBED BY FRANCESCO XANTO AVELLI, LUSTRED IN THE GUBBIO WORKSHOP OF MAESTRO GIORGIO ANDREOLI

Details
AN URBINO ISTORIATO DISH
CIRCA 1530, THE REVERSE INSCRIBED BY FRANCESCO XANTO AVELLI, LUSTRED IN THE GUBBIO WORKSHOP OF MAESTRO GIORGIO ANDREOLI
Painted with a Roman soldier pulling at St. Peter's beard, a sword in his other hand, St. Paul kneeling before them with his hands clasped together in prayer, another soldier with his sword raised, poised to strike, before a marble column and classical buildings enriched in gold lustre, the sky with lustred clouds, within a blue line and gold-lustred band rim, the reverse with three clusters of gold-lustred foliage between lustred bands, the centre inscribed fran: Auello·R: pi: Di Pietro & Paulo gli ulti mi flagelli· hiStoria y (minor chipping and glaze flaking to rim, short crack to obverse surface by left soldier's right foot)
10 5/8 in. (26.9 cm.) diam.

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Dominic Simpson
Dominic Simpson

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Lot Essay

This unrecorded dish is an exciting addition to the canon of known works by Francesco Xanto Avelli.

Literally translated, it depicts the flagelli (beatings) of St. Paul and St. Peter, although it appears that St. Paul is close to the moment of martyrdom. Traditionally St. Paul and St. Peter were martyred in Rome on the same day. St. Paul was a Roman citizen, and was consequently entitled to a swift execution by the sword, but St. Peter (according to tradition) was crucified upside-down at his own request. Xanto's rendering of the scene is taken from the engraving 'The Martyrdom of St. Peter and Paul' by Jacopo Caraglio of circa 1525-27, after Parmigianino. In Caraglio's print the scene takes place before a columned classical edifice. Xanto has extracted the figures from the print and completely changed the background, but he included a single marble column to great effect to aid the strength of the composition.

The inscription translates as 'Fran[cesco] Avelli [da] R[ovigo] painted The last beatings of Peter and Paul narrative'. Xanto not only records his name, but he also uses pi, an abbreviated form of either pinse, the Italian translation of pinxit (painted), or of pittore or pittor (painter), alluding to his self-styled status as a painter of 'high' art. He also uses a flourish resembling a 'y' or the Greek letter 'phi'. The significance of this mark has been much debated. John Mallet proposed that the majority of the pieces with this mark are early Xanto pieces painted between about 1527 and 1530.1 Xanto began to sign and date his work in Urbino from 1530 onwards, and here, unusually, we see Xanto use the mark in combination with his name. The symbol was not exclusive to Xanto, as it was also used by two of his close followers,2 and Mallet has suggested that it was more probable that it denoted a form of punctuation, or etc., or that it was simply a flourish.3

1. For a listing of the works from this 'so-called Y phi series', see J.V.G. Mallet, Exhibition Catalogue, Xanto, Pottery-painter, Poet, Man of the Renaissance, Wallace Collection, London, 2007, pp. 191-192.
2. Giulio da Urbino and the 'Lu Ur' painter.
3. J.V.G. Mallet, ibid., p. 35, notes that Julia Triolo 'has pointed out that such a flourish was often used in the notarial documents of the day to end the line of a formulaic part of text'. He suggests that 'at a time when punctuation was far from standardised, the 'y phi' appears often to have served where we should write a full-stop or 'etc', and is significant only as a trait of handwriting used especially on his earlier inscriptions by Xanto, and not exclusively by him'.

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