Maiolica is Italian tin-glazed pottery dating from the Renaissance, decorated in bright colors on a white background. the decoration often depicts historical and legendary scenes. This platter is the work of one of the prime pottery-making families in Castel Durante in the sixteenth century – the Picchu’s. This region is also famous for the development of istoriato (an Italian word meaning story telling). This is a style of maiolica on which biblical, historical, legendary, and mythological scenes were painted in comparable seriousness to Italian Renaissance easel paintings – the subjects executed with a realism unlike any previous pottery decoration. The development of this style marked the evolution of Italian maiolica from utilitarian products to articles of luxury and high art.
The museum’s description of this platter notes Judith’s enlarged arm on this dish – which I failed to note because i was looking at Holofernes’ naked bum. Supposedly, the enlargement of her arm suggests God’s power in enabling a woman to perform with such strength – but also that a woman would not be able to kill Holofernes with normal feeble female strength. But there are other warnings in this depiction (1):
This would have been used in maiolica as an object to keep displayed around the house to remind brides and wives their allotted role as the ‘weaker vessel’.
Judith’s use of her feminine wiles was a common warning in the Renaissance that women represent sex which represents sin.
She was a popular subject for women, particularly courtesans who would use maiolica dishes in which Judith appeared to promote an appropriate ambience of seduction in bedrooms, placed on the deep shelves formed by headboards.
Dang. All that from a simple dish.
But there is more …
Looks like I can set the table for a dinner party.
(1) Maiolica dish: Judith and Holofernes, The Holburne Museum of Art.