About this artwork
Elaborately fashioned platters, vessels, and containers, often with decorative embellishments that indicated their specialized function or their owner’s social status, were displayed on the banquet tables of Renaissance Italy. Cisterns such as this were filled with cold water and used to cool wine bottles at feasts. Skillfully decorated by the Italian ceramic painter Francesco Durantino, this work typifies the Renaissance interest in both Christian imagery and scenes from pagan antiquity. It is covered with depictions of two famous battle scenes, one on land and one at sea. Although the exterior, adapted from frescoes by Raphael’s followers, represents a land battle culminating in the conversion of the Roman emperor Constantine I to Christianity, the cistern’s interior depicts a legendary naval disaster: the sinking of the Trojan hero Aeneas’s ships by the jealous goddess Hera. At the cistern’s center, the ships disappear beneath the waves, a playful conceit that was no doubt even more effective when the cistern was filled with water. The generously sized vessel displays all the characteristics that made maiolica, a tin-glazed earthenware, popular: brilliant colors, lively painting, and riveting narratives mixed with fanciful design. The term maiolica probably comes from Majorca, the port through which pottery from Moorish Spain was first exported to Italy.
- Francesco Durantino
- Wine Cistern
- Tin-glazed earthenware (maiolica)
- 53.3 × 26.7 cm (21 × 10 1/2 in.)
- Mary Waller Langhorne Endowment