Istoriato Plate depicting the the bronze bull of Perilaus


Museum of Applied Arts, Budapest

Museum of Applied Arts, Budapest
Budapest, Hungary

In the mid-16th century, Urbino rose to pre-eminence among the Italian maiolica centres, and produced most of the finest istoriato pieces. This istoriato plate, with a scene from a classical story, is probably the work of the Fontana workshop, famous for wares with paintings on a wide variety of subjects. Caius Plinius Secundus [Pliny II] (23/24–79) was the author of a work regarded in the Middle Ages and the early Renaissance as the main source of knowledge about nature. Pliny’s Naturalis historia, comprising thirty-seven books, is an encyclopaedic work on botany, zoology, mineralogy, geography, medicine, agriculture and many other topics, written with the purpose of explaining things 16th century of life and the world. He also, as several other classical authors, related the story of the bronze bull of Perilaus (Pliny, Naturalis historia, 34.89). In the centre of the plate, an enormous bull stands on a little dais; two servants are stoking a fire underneath it, and under a baldachin sits the tyrant Phalaris (last quarter of the 6th century BC). The plate depicts a frightful instrument of torture, a bronze bull which Phalaris, ruler of Agrigentum, ordered from the bronze founder Perilaus. The tyrant sealed his enemies inside the life-sized bronze bull. By some descriptions, Perilaus placed a pipe in the bronze bull which turned the screams of agony into the roar of a bull. Phalaris first tried out his terrible invention on its maker, Perilaus.

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  • Title: Istoriato Plate depicting the the bronze bull of Perilaus
  • Creator: Unknown
  • Date Created: c.1560
  • Location Created: Urbino, Italy
  • Provenance: Purchased from Dr. Bálint Füzéky in 1987. Formerly in the collection of Emil Delmár.
  • Production Note: Plate produced in the workshop of Orazio Fontana (active 1510-1571).
  • Place Part Of: Italy
  • Physical Dimensions: h28.2 cm (Complete)
  • Type: Ceramic object
  • Rights: Museum of Applied Arts, Budapest, 2013, http://collections.imm.hu/terms-and-conditions
  • External Link: http://collections.imm.hu/gyujtemeny/disztal-istoriato-perilaosz-ercbikaja/1553
  • Medium: Majolica