Tim and Birgit Carey, California Chapter
One of the central facets of the collection of Decorative Arts of the Vatican Museums is a group of thirty polychrome glazed ceramic plates, part of the collection of the Cardinal Gaspare Carpegna (1625-1714). The original inventory of this collection of antiques, which was acquired by the Vatican in 1741, describes the individual pieces of the series as “golden”, “black” or “colored stone blends” arranged within frames. It is clear from the descriptions that in the Roman residence of the Cardinal (rebuilt in 1935 in Corso Rinascimento) these pieces were hung on the wall as though they were small paintings. Throughout the Middle Ages, the manufacture of painted pottery and ceramic utensils, often with whimsical shapes and bright surface decorations, was typical for Italian artisans. Initially, cities in Umbria and Lazio like Viterbo and Orvieto, were known to be famous for the production of this kind of tableware, including plates, pots, jugs, jars and trays of various shapes and sizes. Later, in the fifteenth and sixteenth century, the cities of Marche Castel Durante and Urbino joined these others in similar prominence. Despite the persistence of archaic techniques that date back to the beginning of the medieval era, in the Renaissance, innovations became evident. Tradition connects new techniques in this work to Raphael and the students of his school and these are demonstrated in the themes of literary and humanistic inspiration, which were initially codified in paintings and now began to be set into ceramics. The thirty-three ‘stained’ pieces presented can be divided, according to their subject, into four distinct groups. The first, depicting sacred subjects, consists of five plates, including four from the Old Testament and one from the Gospels. These are: Adam and Eve Expelled from the Terrestrial Paradise (inv. 62273), The Flight of Lot from Sodom (inv. 62249), Joseph Makes Himself Known to His Brothers (inv. 62248), Ahab, King of Judea, Who Makes a Sacrifice to Idols (inv. 62244), The Nativity of Jesus (inv. 62258).
The second group is made up of seven plates, which show heroic scenes: Hercules Defeating Antaeus (inv. 62270), Perseus Freeing Andromeda (inv. 62271), The Return of Theseus (inv. 62250), The Battle of Hector and Achilles (inv. 62257), Aeneas Fleeing from Troy (inv. 62253), The Virgin Tarpea Killed by the Sabines (inv. 62245), The Victory of the Romans Over the Sa- bines (inv. 62286). The third and most numerous group, consists of eighteen pieces with m gical scenes, taken from Ovid’s Metamor Jupiter Coming to Leda as a Swan (inv. 6 Jupiter with Europa in the Form of a (62247), The Rape of Europa (inv. 6226 nus and Cupid (inv. 62243), Venus and Ad (inv. 62261), Pan and Syrinx (inv. 62266) Apollo and Pan (inv. 62264) , Apollo Cur sing King Midas with Donkey Ears (inv. 62256), Apollo and Pan (inv. 62265), Apollo and Marsyas (inv. 62269), Apol- lo Flaying Marsyas (inv. 62262), Neptune and Anfrite ( inv. 62272), Diana and Endymion (inv. 62260), Proserphina, Queen of the Averno (inv. 62276), Diana Banishing Callisto (inv. 62263), Deucalion and Pyrrha (inv. 62274), Apollo and Daphne (inv. 62275). The fourth group is made up of only four pieces, with allego cal themes: Time brings out the Truth (62267), The Temple of Fame or the Allegories of the Courtier (inv. 62254), The Three G (inv. 62259), Berta who Rows (inv. 62252). Not all the dishes are of an equal artistic quality, nor are all their sources uniquely attributed Raphael, but their iconographic originality and their survival as unchanged group, are reason enough for them to have great museographic interest and necessitate restorative action.