Francesco Xanto d'Avelli

(Italian; b. ca. 1480–d. 1537 or 1538)

Plate with Pyramus and Thisbe


tin-glazed earthenware
H: 1 1/8 x D: 10 3/8 in. (H: 2.9 x D: 26.4 cm)

William A. Clark Collection


Francesco Xanto Avelli is one of the best known istoriato (story-painted) maiolica painters in 16th-century Italy. He depicted mythical, religious, and contemporary stories, often borrowing figures from prints by Raphael and Marcantonio Raimondi. He developed a style known for a bold palette, sharply defined figures, and prominent architectural elements. His career is relatively well documented because he signed almost all of his work, even adding notations and verses to the reverse of some pieces. Many maiolica painters were itinerant; however, Xanto appears to have remained in Urbino throughout his career, although perhaps not at one pottery. As was true of the best painters, he created complete services for the Italian aristocracy, including a service for the Pucci family of Florence (one example is in the Corcoran’s collection).

In this plate, Xanto dramatically depicts the deaths of Pyramus and Thisbe, a tale from Ovid’s Metamorphoses. He was apparently enamored of the story of the tragic lovers who both commit suicide over the loss of the other. This plate is one of five extant examples that he painted in the 1530s.