Workshop of Orazio and Flaminio Fontana
Tin-glazed earthenware (maiolica)
This richly decorated basin is a tour de force of ceramic art, made for display and occasional use at a table as a luxurious finger bowl, with water filling the lobes. Three pairs of swans set against a wavy blue ground imitating water decorate the basin's underside (fig. 1), playing on themes of art and nature and hinting at its function. The airy elegant motifs on the front (fig. 2), known as grotteschi, derive from early 16th-century fresco paintings by Raphael in the Vatican palace, in turn inspired by ancient Roman frescoes. The basin is the MFA’s first example of this type of maiolica decoration, the specialty of the Fontana workshop in Urbino, a major production center in Renaissance Italy.
Dr. Henry A. E. Roman and Irene Roman Fund.2021.150