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Diomides holding the Palladium and the Sacrifice of a Bull: M.117-1961

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Object information

Current Location: In storage


Diomides holding the Palladium and the Sacrifice of a Bull


Enameller: Master of the Mars and Venus Plaque
Sculptor: Belli, Valerio (Valerio Vicentino) (After)




Copper enamelledin grisaille and gilded. Diomides seated and holding the Palladium, a ball on a column, two women and an old man about to sacrifice a bull beside an altar.

Rectangular and slightly convex copper plaque enamelled in grisaille on a black ground, and gilded. The translucent counter-enamel is tinged with green.
Diomides seated holding the Palladium before a group sacrificing a bull. On the left, Diomedes, nude, sits in profile to right on a drapery which passes over his left arm which is held out in front of him, supporting a gold winged figure of the Palladium. Further to the right is a column with a ball on top, a clad female figure with a quiver, holding her arms up to the right, another female figure, and an old man facing to the left with a bull, partly concealed behind an altar. A gold line runs round the edge.
Narrow rectangular frame with on the back, a toothed inner edge which holds the plaque in position, and, at top centre, a ring and a circular loop for suspension. The front has a blue-black ground decorated on the front in gold with a repeating pattern of formal flowerheads and foliage.


History note: Sir Otto Beit KCMG, FRS (1865–1930) before 1918; inherited by Sir Alfred Beit (1903–94); sold Sotheby's, 7 October 1948, Catalogue of the celebrated collections of Hispano- Moresque, Italian majolica, bronzes and works of art, p. 4, second part of lot 24; Copper & Adams, London; Louis C.G. Clarke MA, Litt.D. (1881-1960), Leckhampton, Cambridge.

Legal notes

Louis.C.G. Clarke Bequest, 1960

Place(s) associated

  • Limoges ⪼ Haute Vienne ⪼ France

Acquisition and important dates

Method of acquisition: Bequeathed (1961-04-27) by Clarke, Louis Colville Gray


16th Century, Mid
Circa 1550 CE - 1570 CE


In Greek mythology Diomedes, depicted on the left, was one of the greatest heroes of the Trojan War, who, with Odysseus, stole the Palladium, the apotropaic image of Athena, on which the safety of the city of Troy was believed to depend. There are several different accounts of how this was achieved, and of the later fate of the Palladium. In classical literature the Palladium was described as in the form of a warrior with feet together, holding a spear, a shield, and in the other hand a spindle and distaff. But here the enameller has represented it as an elegant winged figure reminiscent of a Victory. The scene was constructed from two unrelated images, both probably taken from Renaissance bronze plaquettes. Godsell (see Documentation) identified the two sources of the design. The group on the right is after a rare bronze plaquette, of a Sacrifice of a Bull by Valerio Belli (e.g. Staatliche Museen, Berlin, A.N.1161, Inv. 1293), and the seated Diomedes is probably after an anonymous plaquette, after an Antique gem of Ulysses standing before Diomedes with a Palladium (e.g. NG Washington A 315.38B), but it might also have been derived from one of several gems, plaquettes, and medals which display only the figure of Diomedes holding the Palladium. The figure was not copied exactly, the enameller altered the position of the legs. He was named the Master of the Mars and Venus Plaque after a plaque in the Victoria and Albert Museum which illustrates the characteristics of his style. All his enamels are small plaques, and those which have been identified are in the monochrome palette described as grisaille. One of the features of his designs, illustrated by the Fitzwilliam's plaque, is that the figures are arranged more or less in a horizontal line, as if they were a sculptural frieze.

School or Style


People, subjects and objects depicted

Components of the work

Decoration composed of enamel ( white, black) gold
Plaque composed of copper Height 4.3 cm Length 7 cm
Frame Height 5.4 cm Length 8.1 cm

Inscription or legends present

  • Text: 451
  • Location: On back
  • Method of creation: Painted in red
  • Type: Number

Inscription present: circular tie on tag inscribed on one side with name of collection and on the other with sale catalogue reference

  • Text: Beit Coll.’, and, Christies/7oct.1948/lot/24.2’.
  • Location: Attached
  • Method of creation: Hand-written
  • Type: Label

References and bibliographic entries

Identification numbers

Accession number: M.117-1961
Primary reference Number: 156463
Old object number: 451
Stable URI

Audit data

Created: Saturday 6 August 2011 Updated: Tuesday 5 March 2024 Last processed: Wednesday 6 March 2024

Associated departments & institutions

Owner or interested party: The Fitzwilliam Museum
Associated department: Applied Arts

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The Fitzwilliam Museum (2024) "Diomides holding the Palladium and the Sacrifice of a Bull" Web page available at: Accessed: 2024-07-16 01:27:26

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