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Mercury, Herse and Aglauros: C.79-1961

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Object information

Current Location: Gallery 6 (Upper Marlay): case 3, shelf D


Mercury, Herse and Aglauros


Workshop: Maestro Giorgio Andreoli




Tin-glazed earthenware plate, painted on the front in polychrome, with Mercury, Herse and Aglauros.

Buff earthenware, tin-glazed overall; the reverse pale beige. Painted in blue, green, yellow, and orange; red and shades of yellow-gold lustre. Shape 50. Circular with slightly sloping rim and shallow depression in the middle, standing on a footring.
Mercury, Herse and Aglauros. Mercury stands holding his rod in his left hand, his right extended towards Aglauros who stands in the doorway of the palace. On the left, Herse sits indoors beside a window, resting her head on her right hand. The arch of the window springs from a column decorated with scrolling foliage. On the wall above is a shield charged with the arms party per pale undy azure and or (shown orange) a mullet and a crescent counterchanged. In the foreground there are four pebbles on the path, and in the background to right, rocks and a large expanse of sky.
The back is marked in the middle in thick orange-yellow lustre, `1522/.M o .o G' (both o raised). The base is encircled by a wide blue band and a narrow lustre band repeated in reverse order next to the rim. Between these are four crossed lozenges alternating with two spirals between curved strokes and two groups of spots between curved strokes.


History note: Henry T. Hope, Deepdene, Surrey; his daughter, Henrietta Adela Hope, who married in 1861 the Earl of Lincoln, later 6th Duke of Newcastle-under-Lyme (1834-1979); by descent to the 7th Duke of Newcastle-under-Lyme (1864-1928); sold by Christie's, 7 July 1921, Catalogue of fine old English silver-gilt plate, Limoges enamels, old Italian majolica and porcelain, the property of his grace the Duke of Newcastle, and removed from Clumber, Worksop, lot 120; George A. Lockett; Christie's, 11 June 1942, The choice collection of objects of art and furniture formed by the late George A. Lockett Esq., lot 217; Alfred Spero (£556); from 1943, L.C.G. Clarke, Leckhampton, MA, LL.D., Cambridge (1881-1960) by whom bequeathed

Legal notes

L.C.G. Clarke Bequest

Measurements and weight

Diameter: 26.0 cm
Height: 2.7 cm

Place(s) associated

  • Gubbio ⪼ Umbria ⪼ Italy

Acquisition and important dates

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


16th Century, Early#
Production date: dated AD 1522


The arms occur on two more plates painted by the same hand, and also dated 1522. A plate painted with the Fall of Phaeton in the Hermitage, St Petersburg, and another painted with a woman holding a dagger and taunting a young man, in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. They were probably decorated by the painter of a dish decorated with the Judgement of Paris, in Maestro Giorgio's workshop in Gubbio on 2 October 1520, which is in the Petit Palais, Paris.

The subject was taken from the Roman poet Ovid's Metamorphoses, II, 708-832. The scene could illustrate Mercury's first or second visit to Cecrops' palace to see Herse with whom he had fallen in love. On the first occasion he was met by her sister Aglaurus who declined to lead him to Herse, and demanded gold for her compliance before sending him away. On his return, Aglaurus, who had become extremely envious of Herse's good fortune in attracting a lover, barred the way to her room. Thereupon Mercury exercised his supernatural power to open the door and transformed Aglaurus into stone.The figures of Mercury and Aglauros were derived from a woodcut in 'Ovidio metamorphoseos vulgare', Venice, 1497, p. XVIIIv, or in one of the Latin or Italian editions published in 1505, 1508, 1509, 1513, and 1517.

School or Style


People, subjects and objects depicted

Components of the work

Decoration composed of high-temperature colours ( blue, yellow, green and orange) reduced pigment lustre ( copper appearing red) reduced pigment lustre ( silver-yellow, appearing yellow-gold)

Materials used in production


Techniques used in production

Tin-glazing : Buff earthenware, tin-glazed overall; the reverse appearing pale beige. Painted in blue, green, yellow, and orange; red and shades of yellow-gold lustre.

Inscription or legends present

Inscription present: rectangular, a ducal crown over a gothic N and to the right 'CLUMBER/2603'

  • Text: CLUMBER/2603
  • Location: On back
  • Method of creation: Printed in black
  • Type: Label

Inscription present: both o raised

  • Text: 1522/.M o .o G
  • Location: On the back
  • Method of creation: In thick orange-yellow lustre
  • Type: Inscription

References and bibliographic entries

Related exhibitions

Identification numbers

Accession number: C.79-1961
Primary reference Number: 79248
Stable URI

Audit data

Created: Saturday 6 August 2011 Updated: Saturday 14 March 2020 Last processed: Friday 8 December 2023

Associated departments & institutions

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

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