In Renaissance Italy, fine maiolica was often associated with the relaxed yet elegant atmosphere of the country estate, where hospitality was generally overseen by women. This plate belongs to a service commissioned by Eleonora Gonzaga, Duchess of Urbino, as a gift for her mother, Isabella d’Este, Marchioness of Mantua. On all the known pieces, Isabella's arms are joined with those of her husband, Gianfrancesco Gonzaga. The arms are frequently accompanied by mottoes and heraldic or personal badges belonging to Isabella or her husband. Twenty-one pieces of the service survive, all decorated by the greatest maiolica painter of the sixteenth century, Nicola da Urbino. Intended for use at Isabella’s rural villa, the dishes are decorated with scenes of revelry (such as this drunken Silenus), a theme well-suited to countryside entertaining. Bacchic revelers support Silenus, who is too drunk to walk or sit unaided on a donkey. The composition is based on an engraving by Marcantonio Raimondi after a design by Raphael.
Inscription: Hanging from the branches of a tree to the right are a shield displaying a bunch of lottery tickets, a tabula ansata with the inscription: NEC SPE / NEC METV; below that, a roundel with the letters YS intertwined.
Countess Lauredana Gatterburg-Morosini, Venice (sale, Palazzo Morosini, Venice, May 17, 1894, lot 176, ill.); Charles Mannheim, Paris; J. Pierpont Morgan, London and New York, (sale, Duveen, New York, May 22, 1922); William Randolph Hearst, New York (sale, Gimbel's, New York, March 17, 1939, lot 947, art. 5).