Childbirth tray (desco da parto) with scenes from Boccaccio's Commedia delle ninfe fiorentine: Ameto's Discovery of the Nymphs and Contest between the Shepherds Alcesto and Acaten, ca. 1410
Master of 1416 (Italian, Florentine, active early 15th century)
Tempera on panel; twelve–sided, 21 1/8 x 22 1/8 in. (53.7 x 56.2 cm)
Rogers Fund, 1926 (26.287.1,2)
The panel, probably the front of a birth tray, is the earliest representation of Boccaccio's novella, written about 1342. In the first scene, the hunter Ameto, behind a hill on the far right and wearing a tunic, discovers a group of nymphs hunting, bathing, and singing in a luxuriant landscape. In the second of the multiple narrative scenes, Ameto strides toward the nymphs, joining their group so that he may learn about love and virtuous living. Boccaccio's Commedia delle ninfe fiorentine suggests the close link between love and virtue in the Renaissance mind. The married couple to whom this tray belonged and whose union had, or hoped to have, offspring would have known the story and taken inspiration from it. The panel was probably painted by a master of a prolific workshop of the Florentine artist Lorenzo di Niccoló (active 1371–1420).
The narratives of Ameto and the nymphs continues on a panel that was in all likelihood originally the verso of the birth tray above, but the two are now separated. Ameto, in the same high-collared red tunic, and two nymphs listen to a musical competition between the shepherds Alcesto, who represents leisure, and Acaten, who represents industry. The incident was a critical prelude to Ameto's embrace of the virtuous life. One of the coats of arms has been identified as that of the Di Lupo Parra family of Pisa.