Exuberant Grotesques: Renaissance Maiolica from the Fontana Workshop
September 15, 2009, through January 17, 2010
Basin (wine cooler), Battle with Elephants
Urbino, c. 1565–75
probably the workshop of the Fontana family
The Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Bequest of Michael Friedsam, 1931
The narrative scene depicted here represents an episode from Julius Caesar’s Civil War, the Battle of Thapsus that took place in 46 BC near Thapsus, in modern Tunisia. Subjects from Caesar’s Civil War and Gallic War were painted on one of the most ambitious maiolica services made in Renaissance Italy, the one commissioned by Duke Guidobaldo
Della Rovere (1514–1574) as a gift to Philip II of Spain (1527–1598). It is possible that the basin went to Spain in 1562 as part of this extraordinary diplomatic gift. The existence of early copies, however, may suggest that the basin was made a few years later for another distinguished client of Orazio’s, or of his successor, Flaminio Fontana.