Large, deep polychrome majolica charger, or plate, in the istoriato style, in the middle with a scene in shades of blue, orange, green, and brown of Julius Caesar in Roman garb with cloak surrounded by Roman townspeople distributing and receiving wine and food within a courtyard defined by architectural structures and columns, probably based on a drawing by Taddeo Zuccaro (1529-66), the border decorated with grotesques on a whitened ground incorporating fantastic birds, part-human creatures, scrolls, stylized urns, and medallions imitating engraved gems, at the top the coat-of-arms of the Petrocchini family of Montelparo, Italy, the outer edge decorated in a modified egg-and-dart pattern; the reverse with a series of bright yellow bands and painted with the inscription SON FATTI DONI AL POPVLO ROMAO

Charger “Julius Caesar Offering Food and Wine to the Roman People”

Workshop of Antonio Patanazzi

1589-1590

The scene on this plate depicts the Emperor Julius Caesar offering food and wine to the Roman people. It is probably based on a drawing by the artist Taddeo Zuccaro (1529-66). Zuccaro designed specifically for majolica workshops, and his drawings are known to have been used regularly by Urbino majolica painters. The scene is an example of istoriato decoration. With istoriato majolica, the entire surface of the object is treated as a canvas for painting, and each piece is decorated with colorful scenes that tell a story. Popularized by the Urbino workshops, istoriato pottery represents the first time that the craft of Italian majolica achieved a status almost equivalent to that of the fine arts.


The central scene is surrounded by grotesques, a term used to describe the painted ornamentation found on the walls of antique houses that were excavated during the late fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries in Rome. Around 1519 the artist Raphael and his students painted the Vatican loggias with similar colorful grotesques on a white ground, and they were first used on majolica objects from the early 1560s, usually to surround large istoriato scenes. The grotesques on this plate, which incorporate fantastic birds, part-human creatures, scrolls, stylized urns, and medallions imitating engraved gems, may derive from the set of etchings known as Les Petites Grotesques by the French architect and designer Jacques Androuet I Du Cerceau (1510-84).


The coat-of-arms at the top of the plate refers to Gregorio Petrocchini da Montelparo (1536-1612), made bishop by Pope Sixtus V on December 20, 1589. Around this time, a large service was made for Petrocchini, which would have been displayed on a large sideboard, or credenza, in his villa. The plate remained in the Petrocchini family until late 2009.