Baldassare Manara (Italian, Faenza, active 1529–46/47)
Tin-glazed earthenware (maiolica)
H. 4 1/8 in. (10.5 cm), cover: Diam. 7 3/4 in. (19.7 cm)
Inscribed with literary citations on rim of bowl
Robert Lehman Collection, 1975 (1975.1.1043a,b)
Baldassare Manara was one of the principal ceramics artists active in Faenza, working in a busy and well-documented shop. These two pieces of a childbirth maiolica set are highly unusual for their complex classical imagery and their elaborate inscriptions. 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.