Here, a dragon-headed creature devours a somewhat complacent-looking boy. This startling image, known as the biscione (big serpent), was a heraldic symbol of the ruling family of the duchy of Milan. Filling much of the dish’s central well, it is surrounded by an irregular border of peacock feathers. Two holes in the foot ring allowed the dish to be suspended on the wall, where it would be viewed as a bold statement of Milanese allegiance.
J. Pierpont Morgan , London and New York (1901–d. 1913; on loan to the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, 1901–12 [no. 245], brought to New York 1912; to his son, J. P. Morgan); by descent, J. P. Morgan Jr. , New York (1913–16; on loan to MMA 1914–16 [PM3168]; sold to Duveen as part of the Morgan collection); [ Duveen Brothers , New York, 1916; sold to Schiff ] ; Mortimer L. Schiff , New York (1916–d. 1931; on loan to MMA 1917–19; to his son, John); by descent, John M. Schiff , New York (1931–46; on loan to MMA 1937–46, on view 1937–41; his sale, Parke-Bernet, New York, May 4, 1946, no. 67; sold for $2,900 plus $145 commission to French and Company); [ French and Co., New York , as agent for MMA, 1946 ]