Plate (piatto): The story of Aeneas

Artist: Francesco Xanto Avelli da Rovigo (Italian, Rovigo ca.1487–1542)

Date: 1532

Medium: Maiolica (tin-glazed earthenware)

Dimensions: Diameter: 11 5/8 in. (29.5 cm)

Classification: Ceramics-Pottery

Credit Line: Robert Lehman Collection, 1975

Accession Number: 1975.1.1131


This splendid plate formed part of one of the largest majolica services ever made, commissioned by Piero Maria Pucci (1467–1547) of Florence, whose arms are visible at the center. Highly distinguished in the first half of the sixteenth century, Pucci family members served under the Medici popes Leo X (r. 1513-21) and Clement VII (r. 1523-34). Thirty-seven pieces from the maiolica service survive (including four in the Lehman Collection: see also 1975.1.1134; 1975.1.1135; 1975.1.1137), all painted in Urbino by the celebrated maiolica painter Francesco Xanto Avelli da Rovigo in 1532 and 1533. Some pieces were sent to Gubbio to be completed with luster decoration under Xanto’s direction.
This particular plate represents Aeneas and his companions at the tomb of Polydorus, a subject derived from Virgil's Aeneid, Book III. The bleeding bush (painted in red luster) signals the presence of the corpse, while the coat of arms of the Pucci family, on an escutcheon surmounting a standard, identifies the patronage. The Aeneas plate shows Xanto's energetic line and exuberant use of warm colors, often washed into one another—deep oranges and yellows against strong greens and blues. The richly decorated piece is made even more magnificent by the Gubbio luster.