The present bottle vase belongs to a large group of pharmacy wares traditionally attributed to Faenza. Bernard Rackham named the group 'Orsini-Colonna' after a two-handled drug jar in the collection of the British museum painted with a bear embracing a column, symbols of these two families. Recent excavations of kiln sites near Castelli point towards the likelihood of this city in the Abruzzi as the source of this series. The present example varies slightly from this group in that the decoration is of a true istoriato scene rather than a large scale figure against a small-scale landscape. Cf. Timothy Wilson, et al., Le Maioliche Cinquecentesche di Castelli, una Grande Stagione Artistica Ritrovata, 1989 for a detailed discussion of the excavations made and the conclusions draw which have led to the re-attribution of this whole class of wares.
The story represented is taken from Ovid's Metamorphoses, chapter 10, verses 560-707 in which Ovid recounts the myth of Atalanta and Hippomenes. Atalanta, an Arcadian huntress, wanted to keep her virginity and refused to marry anyone unless they could beat her in a footrace. Hippomenes was given three golden apples by Aphrodite which he is shown dropping in order to delay Atalanta and win the race. The script VIRTUS is written, appropriately, on one of the apples.