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Gallery Text

Private patronage of art increased during the sixteenth century, significantly expanding the range of possible subject matter. The new themes often derived from classical models and displayed a naturalism that reflected the growing influence of humanism. Though no longer unequivocally Christian in content, these objects nevertheless continued to address moral issues and to concern themselves with the nature of the soul. For example, the salt cellars, which illustrate the labors of Hercules, are generally a metaphor for the triumph of virtue. With the growth of a mercantile economy and the consequent increase in lay patronage, figures of vanity and death also became popular subjects, as is evidenced by objects in this case.

Pottery decorated with subjects derived from classical literature (often, as in this case, from Ovid’s Metamorphoses) represents the application of the revival of antiquity to the decorative arts. Urbino was one important center for the production of such istoriato ware in the mid-sixteenth century. The hunter, Actaeon, coming across Diana and her nymphs while bathing, is transformed into a stag, pursued and killed by his own dogs.

Identification and Creation
Object Number
Unidentified Artist
Low-Footed dish with Scene of Diana and Actaeon
Work Type
c. 1540-1545
Creation Place: Europe, Italy, Marches, Urbino
Persistent Link
Level 2, Room 2540, European Art, 13th–16th century, The Renaissance
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Physical Descriptions
Tin-glazed earthenware
26 cm (10 1/4 in.)
Acquisition and Rights
Credit Line
Harvard Art Museums/Fogg Museum, Gift of Edward W. Forbes, by exchange
Accession Year
Object Number
European and American Art
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Publication History

Judith A. Neiswander, "Selections from the Ceramics Collection of the Fogg Art Museum, Harvard University", Ars Ceramica, Wedgwood Society of New York (Bronx, NY, 1991), no. 8, p. 36, repr. as fig. 1

Exhibition History

32Q: 2540 Renaissance, Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge, 11/16/2014 - 01/01/2050

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