Baldassare Manara was one of the principal ceramics artists active in Faenza, working in a productive and well-documented shop. These two pieces of a maiolica set, produced on the occasion of childbirth, are highly unusual for their complex classical imagery and their elaborate inscriptions. New mothers in Renaissance Italy were often presented with maiolica birth sets. Although no complete set survives, these gifts consisted of five interlocking pieces: a footed broth bowl and its cover (which doubled as a plate), a drinking cup, a saltcellar, and a lid. When assembled, these objects formed a single unit and any imagery on the interior—in this case, a series of scenes from ancient mythology—was hidden from view. The subjects may have been chosen for their symbolic meanings: Aeneas carrying his father out of burning Troy for its theme of filial piety; Pyramis and Thisbe for the power of love; and Hercules and the Nemean Lion perhaps to foretell the strength and virtues of the child just born. The first of the inscriptions—"God with his hands created you so fair that now to mortal eyes you appear more precious than any oriental gem"—must have referred to the mother. The other inscriptions do not entirely correspond to the scenes with which they have been paired, perhaps due to an error on the part of the painter.
Inscription: [on the bowl, in blue] IDIO-CHON-LE-SVE-MAN-VE-CREO-TALLE-CHE-APRESSO-ALI-MORTALLI-SIETTE-I-PIV-PCIO-DE-QVAL-SE-VALI-GEMMA-ORIENTALLE-; [on the cover, in blue] QVEL-CHE-VOLSSE-EXPVGNARE-IL-PARADISO-QVEL-CHE-CACHO-AMAZZO-DE-FVRIA-ACESSE-/QVEL-CHE-QVAL-SALAMANDRA-LA-VIA-PRESSE-IN-MEGIO-AL-FOCHO-COL-IVLIO-ET ANCHISO; [on the cover] VIRTV-BELTA-FORTESA-IN-SIGVLLARE-PERSONA-VNITA-VISERBBE-EQVALLE-COMO-VN-MINIMO-RIVO-A-VN-APLO-MARE
Alfred Israel Pringsheim, Munich, later Zurich (1850-1941); sale*, Sotheby's, London, July 20, 1939, lot 366, ill.; [Julius Goldschmidt, London, for Lehman]; acquired by Robert Lehman through Goldschmidt Galleries, New York, 1939.
*Alfred Pringsheim was a German Jewish collector. During Kristallnacht, in November 1938, the SS seized Pringsheim’s majolica collection from his home in Munich. It was stored in the annex to the Bayerishches National Museum, Munich. In March 1939, the German Ministry of Trade authorized export of Pringsheim's majolica collection to London for auction at Sotheby's, provided that 80% of the proceeds up to £ 20,000 and 70% of the remainder be paid to the German Gold Discount Bank in foreign currency. Pringsheim was to receive the remaining proceeds. In exchange, Pringsheim and his wife were allowed to emigrate to Switzerland. See Timothy Wilson, "Alfred Pringsheim and his Collection of Italian Maiolica," in Otto von Falke, Die Majolikasammlung Alfred Pringsheim, augmented reprint with articles by Tjark Hausman, Carmen Ravanelli-Guidotti and Timothy Wilson, Ferrara 1994, vol. 3, pp. 85-87. After the war, the Pringsheim heirs received restitution of the sale proceeds paid to the Reichsbank pursuant to a settlement agreement with the German government. Minutes of a closed session of the Reparation Claims Office I for Upper Bavaria, Munich, March 11, 1955.