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"Pilgrim Flask" with Mercury and Psyche

Description Conservation Exhibitions Provenance Inscription Credit
Description The decoration of this vessel, shaped like the flasks carried by travelers or pilgrims,is centered on the god Mercury carrying the beautiful young mortal woman Psyche to Mt. Olympus, home of the immortal gods, for her marriage with Cupid, god of love. The motif is adapted from an engraving by Marcantonio Raimondi (ca. 1475-1530) after a wall-painting by Raphael (1483-1520) in the Villa Farnesina in Rome.

This is one of the earliest signed and dated works by Francesco Xanto Avelli, one of the most original painters of maiolica (tin-glazed earthenware) and the only one who frequently signed his works. He aspired to the humanist culture of his patrons and his subject matter reflects some level of familiarity with poetry and classical literature. Indeed, several of his plates illustrate his own poems. He often depicted little-known scenes from ancient history, which he sometimes identified on the back of the plate. Like other painters of istorato ware (decorated with stories), Xanto Avelli frequently relied on prints for compositional models. Many of those prints are after works by Raphael whose classicizing figures provided Xanto Avelli with a handsome visual vocabulary.

The bottle is ornamented at each side with an inscribed cartouche, on one side: ∙F∙A∙R∙ ; on the opposite side: M∙D∙XXX. For other examples of the artist's work in the Walters Art Museum, click on his name in the "creator" field. For more on maiolica ware, see 48.1336 For more on istorato ware, see 48.1487

Date Description Narrative
5/02/1984Examinationexamined for exhibition
  • The Taste of Maryland: Art Collecting in Maryland 1800-1934. The Walters Art Gallery, Baltimore. 1984.
Provenance Spain [date and mode of deposition unknown]; Samuel Addington, prior to 1862, by purchase; Boulton, [no. 92]; George Robinson Harding, London [date of acquisition unknown], by purchase; Henry Walters, Baltimore, 1914, by purchase; Walters Art Museum, 1931, by bequest.
Inscriptions [Inscription] Ornamented at each side with an inscribed cartouche, on one side: ∙F∙A∙R∙ ; on the opposite side: M∙D∙XXX
Credit Acquired by Henry Walters, 1914

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1530 (Renaissance)
earthenware with tin glaze (maiolica)
Accession Number
14 3/8 x 8 13/16 in. (36.5 x 22.4 cm)

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