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Art & Design

Italian, Plate (Orpheus Attacked by Maenads), ca. 1540-1550, Bequest of Susan Martin Allien

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gallery location RA507.European3

Plate (Orpheus Attacked by Maenads)

Unknown artist, Italian, Italy; Urbino
Plate (Orpheus Attacked by Maenads), ca. 1540-1550
Tin-glazed earthenware
Diameter: 27 cm (10 5/8 inches)
Bequest of Susan Martin Allien 35.703

This finely painted plate depicts a scene in Ovid’s Metamorphoses. Orpheus, who has spurned the love of women after being eternally separated from his lover, Eurydice, is attacked by angry women who were followers of Bacchus. The subject, a violent battle between sexes, is one of the themes known as amor crudel (cruel love). The unknown artist who painted this plate may have based it on a now lost engraving by the Renaissance painter Andrea Mantegna. When displayed to guests with other plates of this type, it would have indicated the knowledge and sophistication of the collector.

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