Armorial Plate (tondino): The story of King Midas

Artist: Nicola da Urbino (Italian, active by 1520–died ?1537/38 Urbino)

Date: ca. 1520–25

Medium: Maiolica (tin-glazed earthenware)

Dimensions: Diam. 10 13/16 in. (27.5 cm)

Classification: Ceramics-Pottery

Credit Line: Robert Lehman Collection, 1975

Accession Number: 1975.1.1019


This plate is one of twenty-one surviving pieces of the most famous and elaborate majolica service of the Renaissance, created for Isabella d'Este, marchioness of Mantua, by Nicola da Urbino, the most celebrated majolica painter of his generation. The center of this dish shows Isabella's coat of arms surrounded by three of her personal emblems: a musical scroll, a candelabrum with one lit candle, and a bunch of lottery tickets. On the rim is a portrayal of the musical contest between Apollo and Pan judged by King Midas, a subject recounted in Ovid's "Metamorphoses." The subtle coloring and delicate execution of the expansive landscape setting reveal the artist's consummate skill. Another piece from this service is also in the Robert Lehman Collection.