This dish is decorated with the arms of Matthias Corvinus (1440–1490), king of Hungary from 1458 to 1490, and his second wife, Beatrix of Aragon, a princess of Naples whom he married in 1476. It is one of a small number of pieces surviving from a service of Italian majolica probably made in Pesaro about 1486. The plate demonstrates the finest technical and artistic achievement in majolica at the time. The palette is limited to blues, browns, greens, and aubergine, harmoniously juxtaposed in the four bands of concentric border ornament and the central scene of a lady combing the mane of a unicorn who rests his head in her lap. The composition is after a medal by Pisanello. This dish, presumably commissioned by King Matthias or a member of his court, demostrates a receptivity to Italian Renaissance forms. Matthias brought Hungary fully into the sphere of the Renaissance, encouraging advances in science, art, and literature. During his lifetime Hungary was at the forefront of European cultural and intellectual life.
Matthias Corvinus, King of Hungary ; and/or his third wife, Beatrice of Aragon , Château de Langeais, Indre-et-Loire, France (until 1886; Château de Langeais collection sale, Galerie Georges Petit, Paris, December 13–18, 1886, no. 68); [ Charles Mannheim , Paris, by 1888–1901; sold as part of the Mannheim collection to Morgan ]; J. Pierpont Morgan , London and New York (1901–d. 1913; on loan to the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, 1901–12 [no. 41], brought to New York 1912); J. P. Morgan Jr. , New York (1913–16; on loan to MMA 1914–16 [PM3053]; 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. 60; sold for $9,500 plus $475 commission to French and Company); [ French and Co., New York , as agent for MMA, 1946 ]