Deschi da Parto, or birth trays, became fashionable in Florence in the late quattrocento, and from the late fifteenth century until the second quarter of the sixteenth century were evidently in considerable demand in Siena. Two somewhat later Sienese examples with this apocryphal subject, both in the Chigi-Saraceni collection, Siena, are recorded by Cecilia de Carli, I Deschi da Parto e la Pittura del Primo Rinascimento Toscano, Turin, 1997, nos. 62 and 64. In neither of these is the Infant Moses shown with a coral necklace as in this desco, where it and the cruciform pendant, also of coral, imply Moses’s role as a forerunner of Christ, a theme that had been central to the iconography of the original decoration of the Sistine Chapel.
The subject of Moses’s trial is drawn from the Apocrypha. After his daughters found the infant Moses, Pharaoh dreamt that he saw him seated on his throne. The child was submitted to a trial by fire, and a crown and a vase of burning coals were set before him. Moses here holds the crown and prepares to pluck a coal from the flames, one of which has already been taken by a bird. Below is a shield with the Paschal Lamb, two rams’ heads and cinquefoil flower heads. In the background two hunters, one mounted, and their hounds are about to catch a stag, outside a town with two domed structures that were evidently intended to evoke Islamic buildings.