The theme of Marcus Curtius plunging into the chasm is not uncommon on Italian maiolica of this period, however, the present example is distinct from others with its striking composition of the dark chasm in the foreground. The painting is close to that of the youthful Orazio Fontana. The skilful use of white heightening is reminiscent of the battle scene depicted on the signed and dated charger from the Rothschild Collection, sale Christie's London, 8th July 1999, lot 142, one of the masterpieces of the period.
According to the legend, a chasm had suddenly appeared in the Forum in Rome, and it was thought that this could only be filled by tossing Rome's 'greatest treasure' into it. Marcus Curtius decided to sacrifice himself by galloping on horseback, in full armour, into the chasm, which subsequently sealed itself.