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Feast & Fast

The Art of Food in Europe, 1500 – 1800

245: Cover depicting The Holy Family

Cover depicting The Holy Family from a (lost) accouchement set\nfrom a (lost) accouchement set Recovery from childbirth – the most dangerous experience in most women’s lives – required nourishing food, like sweetmeats or broths. In Italy, these were traditionally served from a maiolica set given to the new mother during her post-natal confinement period, often by her husband. It usually comprised 5 stacked pieces: a standing bowl and cover (that doubled as a plate), a footed drinking bowl, and a salt and its cover. The Nativity scene beautifully painted onto the upper side of this cover (tagliere) was meant to inspire the new mother, who would have looked to the Virgin and St Anne as models of motherhood.

The reverse is painted with two putti, the family’s coat-of- arms, and the initials, ‘ELI’ and ‘PYA’, thought to be the name of the father, ‘Elisio Piani’, a government official in early sixteenth-century Urbino. Probably ‘Milan Marsyas Painter’, Le Marche, Italy, c.1531, after an engraving by Giovanni Giacomo Caraglio (c.1505–65) after Parmigianino (1503–40)

Tin-glazed and painted earthenware (maiolica)

C.B. Marlay Bequest (MAR.C.60-1912)

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