This dish is decorated with the arms of Matthias Corvinus, 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 often said that the composition is based on Pisanello's medal of Cecilia Gonzaga, but the association is a loose one at best, and the symbolism is quite the opposite. Here, the sleeping unicorn represents the king, who has collapsed in the lap of the maiden who will be his wife.
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 ]