Plate with the Death of the Woman of Sestos, 1532
Francesco Xanto Avelli (Italian, 1486/87?–?1542)
Tin–glazed earthenware (maiolica); Diam. 16 in. (40.6 cm)
Inscribed and dated 1532 on reverse
The Friedsam Collection, Bequest of Michael Friedsam, 1931 (32.100.378)
The great pottery painter Xanto is here inspired by Pliny's tale of the devotion of an eagle to a young woman: the eagle is ready to immolate itself to be with her even in death. Strikingly, for this classical tale of loyalty and selflessness the artist draws upon the infamous erotic prints known as I modi for motifs, above all for the nude man seen from behind stoking the fire. This example is not the only occasion on which Xanto made a visual reference to this censored group of engravings. The borrowing is of particular interest here as it introduces what was originally an erotic motif onto a plate that is part of a large dinner service made for the Pucci family.