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The Deaths of Pyramus and Thisbe: C.15-1953

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Object information

Current Location: In storage


The Deaths of Pyramus and Thisbe


Painter: Avelli, Francesco Xanto (Probably)
Printmaker: Caraglio, Giovanni Giacomo (After)
Printmaker: Dente, Marco (Marco da Ravenna) (After)
Printmaker: Veneziano, Agostino (After)




Maiolica broad-rimmed bowl, painted in polychrome with The Deaths of Pyramus and Thisbe.

Bowl. Buff earthenware, tin-glazed overall; the reverse pale beige. Painted in blue, green, yellow, orange, beige, brown, manganese-purple, black, and white.
Shape 57. Circular with broad, slightly sloping rim and small, deep well; the underside of the rim moulded with four bands of reeding.
The Deaths of Pyramus and Thisbe. Pyramus, naked and pierced by his own sword, lies dead in the foreground. On the right, Thisbe is about to throw herself on a sword, watched by Cupid, standing bow in hand on the far left. In the middle, a lioness looks out from behind a fountain and rocks. In the landscape background there is a town and distant hills. The edge is yellow. The back is inscribed in the middle in blue-black: `Vedi Piramo & Tisbe/i sieme allombra./historia y' (Behold Pyramus and Thisbe together in the shadow. history y).


History note: Henry Harris before 1930; Sotheby's, 20 June 1950, Catalogue of fine Italian maiolica from the well-known collection of the late Henry Harris, Esq. . . ., lot 106; Alfred Spero; Marmaduke Langdale Horn.

Legal notes

M.L. Horn Bequest

Measurements and weight

Diameter: 26 cm
Height: 4.3 cm

Place(s) associated

  • Urbino ⪼ The Marches ⪼ Italy

Acquisition and important dates

Method of acquisition: Bequeathed (1953-10-22) by Horn, Marmaduke Langdale


16th Century
Circa 1528 CE - 1531 CE


Although unsigned, this dish can be attributed to Xanto on the basis of style, the literary and printed sources used, and handwriting.

The scene was constructed from four engraved sources. Thisbe was adapted from a woman on the extreme right of the Contest between the Muses and the Pierides by G. G. Caraglio after Rosso Fiorentino. The figure was reversed and a raised arm added. Pyramus was probably derived from the fallen warrior in the foreground of the Battle of the Romans and Carthaginians by Marco Dente da Ravenna after Raphael or Giulio Romano. Cupid is a reversed version of one to the right of centre in the Dance of Cupids, by Marcantonio Raimondi after Raphael. The lion's head might have been taken from Hercules and the Nemean Lion by Agostino Veneziano after Raphael.

School or Style


People, subjects and objects depicted

Components of the work

Decoration composed of high-temperature colours ( blue, green, yellow, orange, beige, brown, manganese-purple, black, and white)

Materials used in production


Techniques used in production

Moulding : Buff earthenware, tin-glazed overall; the reverse pale beige. Painted in blue, green, yellow, orange, beige, brown, manganese-purple, black, and white.

Inscription or legends present

  • Text: `Vedi Piramo & Tisbe/i sieme allombra./historia y'
  • Location: On base
  • Method of creation: Painted in blue-black
  • Type: Inscription

Inscription present: rectangular with cut corners and red printed border

  • Text: Harris collection/Borenius Catalogue/no 41 Illustrated/ Probably Xanto
  • Method of creation: Inscribed in faded black ink
  • Type: Label

Inscription present: strip

  • Text: by Xanto, painted with Piramus and Thisbe./From the collection of the late Henry Harris.
  • Method of creation: Typed
  • Type: Label

Inscription present: circular

  • Text: FITZW./MUS
  • Method of creation: Printed in black
  • Type: Label

References and bibliographic entries

Related exhibitions

Identification numbers

Accession number: C.15-1953
Primary reference Number: 72140
Stable URI

Audit data

Created: Saturday 6 August 2011 Updated: Tuesday 27 February 2024 Last processed: Tuesday 27 February 2024

Associated departments & institutions

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

Citation for print

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The Fitzwilliam Museum (2024) "The Deaths of Pyramus and Thisbe" Web page available at: Accessed: 2024-04-22 10:29:19

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