The engraved source for this dish is Marcantonio Raimondi's The Rape of Helen, after Raphael (Bartsch XIV, 209). The scene depicts the Trojan prince Paris, enamoured of the beautiful wife of Menelaus, King of Sparta, abducting her by sea as his men fight the Greeks in the background. The Greeks were afterwards to set out an expedition to recover her, thus precipitating the Trojan Wars.
The scene was a popular subject with maiolica painters, often used in its entirety as it is here and on several other recorded dishes, including:
an example attributed to Nicola, formerly in the Pringsheim, Strauss (sold at Christie's 21st April 1976, illustrated in Christie's Pictorial History of European Pottery, p.78) and Sackler collections, and now in the Musee Ariana, Geneva;
another example with the monogram of Orazio Fontana, dated 1535, in the Schlossmuseum Berlin;
and a small group of examples by Francesco Xanto Avelli; one undated, in the Victoria and Albert Museum;
one dated 1530, in Faenza Museum;
one dated 1533, in the Getty Museum;
one dated 1534, sold in these rooms 21st November 1978, lot 44;
one dated1537, in the Louvre (inv.OA1847, illustrated by J. Giacomotti, Catalogue des majoliques des musees nationaux, no. 856)
Elements of the source print were also used in other contexts, such as the boats and the figure of Helen and her abductor on the outer rim of a dish catalogued as 'circle of Nicola da Urbino and Francesco Xanto Avelli', sold in these rooms 20th March 1973, lot 29, whose centre showed the figure of Joseph from Raimondi's Joseph and Potiphar's wife. Single figures were also used: a dish in the British Museum illustrated by J.V.G. Mallet, Xanto, no.46, uses the horseman and a single soldier from this source in an episode of the Battle of Pavia.
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