Description This dish depicts an episode from the ancient Greek historian Herodotus’ (484-425 BCE) “The Histories,” and the Roman historian Gnaeus Pompeius Trogus’ “Philippic Histories.” According to both texts, King Candaules of Lydia often boasted of his wife’s beauty to anyone who would listen, and showed the naked Queen Nyssia to his confidant, Gyges. Candaules’ actions ultimately caused his own downfall, as Nyssia was so outraged that she demanded Gyges to murder her husband in revenge. Gyges then married the queen and became king himself. On this dish, Gyges is shown as a victim of Cupid’s arrows, conveying his love for Nyssia. All the figures are pushed to the edges of this dish, with only the bricked wall in the central space. The back is white stained with green and decorated with three yellow-ochre circles. In the center, the inscription “Mostra canda uli Re sua/ Dona a Gigio” (Candaules shows his wife to gyges) identifies the story on the obverse side. This dish is representative of “istoriato” (tells a story) wares, which became popular in maiolica workshops at the beginning of the sixteenth century, and prioritized scenes from Classical narratives. The story of Candaules may have served to remind the Renaissance viewer of the importance of modesty, it also provided an opportunity to feature beautiful woman naked. This dish was produced in Urbino, a thriving center of the ceramic industry during the sixteenth century, and has been attributed to the “Eloquence Painter” (also known as “Mazo”), who began working in Urbino under Francesco Xanto Avelli (1487-1542). For more information on “istoriato” wares, see 48.1487; for more on “maiolica,” see 48.1336.
Provenance William Bode [date and mode of acquisition unknown] (?); Leopold Heineman [date and mode of acquisition unknown] (?); Douglas H.Gordon [date and mode of acquisition unknown]; Walters Art Museum, April 4, 1951, by gift.
Inscriptions [Inscription] On the center back, in blue: Mostra canda uli Ré sua / Dona à Gigio ; [Previous Collection inv. no.] No 91.
Credit Gift of Douglas H. Gordon, 1951
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