This previously unrecorded and beautifully painted dish, dated 1537, by the maiolica artist Francesco Xanto Avelli (c.1486-1542) sold for £325,000 at Lyon & Turnbull's latest in Edinburgh.
It was discovered during a regular house valuation and was
thought to have been purchased by the vendor's family in Italy
between 1894 and 1916.
Celia Curnow, ceramics consultant to Lyon & Turnbull said:
"I have waited 30 years to see a plate of this quality outside a
museum. We had interest from around the world, with many collectors
flying in to Edinburgh for the sale as well busy phone lines and
"This is a record price for a piece of ceramic to be sold in
Scotland. The new owner wishes to remain anonymous."
The estimate was £100,000 for the sale on December 8.
The 16in (40cm) dish (that was broken in two) appears to be one
of a small group of large 'istoriato' plates decorated by Xanto in
1537 with scenes inspired by the Persian history. The front is
decorated with a scene from the Life of Cyrus and shows
Cyrus persuading the people of Persepolis to rise up against their
The reverse of the plate is as revealing as the front as it is
fully inscribed by the artist and carries labels inscribed by
previous owners of the plate. The three line inscription in Xanto's
hand can be translated as: Cyrus favoured sent from Persia /
Takes his side against Astyages so he will show him / That that
which heaven arranges comes together whatever it may be / Francesco
Xanto from Rovigo.
In the 2007 exhibition held at London's Wallace Collection
devoted to Xanto, curator John Mallett described Xanto as
"pottery-painter, poet, man of the Italian Renaissance".
Although nothing at all is known of his origins, his education,
or his early years, archival evidence records Xanto working in
Urbino in 1530 - the date of his earliest signed piece, a plate
commemorating the coming New Year.
Over the following five years he produced a large body of work;
each piece was signed in various manners, sometimes dated, and
marked as a product of Urbino.
Such consistency in signing his work was unusual at the time;
there is some suggestion that the artist was blacklisted after the
labour troubles of 1530, and that his choice to sign his works
might be in some way related to these difficulties.
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