The subject is taken from Marco Dente da Ravenna (The Illustrated Bartsch, op. cit., Vol. 26, no. 209 ) which has traditionally been considered as after a drawing by Raphael. However, current scholastic opinion would now suggest that the design may in fact be after a drawing by Giulio Romano (see below).
The bianco-sopra-bianco treatment of the well (cavetto) is similar to that on the dish in the Bernal Collection, sold in these Rooms, 22 March 1855, lot 2037, and now in the British Museum (mla 1855 12-1, 100). The handling of the masks, cherubs and dolphins on the border on that dish is germane to the decoration of the border of the present dish. The robbiana surrounding the coat-of-arms is similar to that on the ewer in the Lehmann Collection, dated to probably 1527, for which see J. Rasmussen, The Robert Lehmann Collection, X, Italian Maiolica, New York, 1989, no. 25, pp. 40-42.
The present dish would appear to be unrecorded. It would also seem to be the largest dish of its kind extant. The two next largest dishes of this type are the Hero and Leander dish, from the Gautier, Durlacher, Reitlinger and Strauss Collcetions and now in the Getty Museum; (see Catharine Hess, Italian Maiolica, Malibu, 1988) and the Gardiner Museum dish, formerly in the Pringsheim and Lehmann Collections and sold in these Rooms, 1 July 1979, lot 140. It is one centimetre smaller than the large Urbino dish painted with the same subject by Nicola da Urbino which was in the Pringsheim, Strauss and Sackler Collections.
This class of berrettino maiolica has been traditionally ascribed to the Casa Pirota bottega on the basis of the saltire and circle mark that appears frequently on pieces of this type, and which is repeated several times on the reverse of the present piece. This purely decorative motif occurs on the products of several Italian maiolica centres. A full discussion of this question is to be found in A.V.B. Norman, Wallace Collection, Catalogue of Ceramics, 1, Pottery, Maiolica, Faience, Stoneware, London, 1976, pp. 103-108.
The painter of this dish has for many years been described as 'The Painter of the Bergantino Bowl' or 'The Green Man' ('Il Maestro Verde'). While the first description is almost certainly correct, 'The Green Man' is a figment of the scholar's imagination who covers a whole range of Faventine pieces painted in a similar technique in which green predominates because of the effect of yellow on the berrettino ground. There are however wide differences in the quality of the painting of individual pieces. The Bergantino Bowl, however, is a clear fixed point in the framework of Faventine maiolica. Painted in 1529, very close in date to the present lot, it is part of a group of pieces of comparable quality and date which would appear to emanate form the Bottega of Maestro Pietro Bergantino. The Bottega is the probable source of the present dish.
The arms are reputedly those of the Foscari family.