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made in Urbino, Italy

Postcard of Dish.
© National Museums Scotland


This maiolica dish was made in Urbino in Italy perhaps at the Guido di Merline workshop between 1540 and 1550.

The dish is painted in polychrome with Cadmus and the Serpent of Mars. Six soldiers are depicted attacking the serpent in the pool beside a cave. To the right there is a half-hidden corpse, probably one of the soldiers slain by the serpent. To the far right, a soldier hurls a rock at the serpent, and two soldiers (one of them possibly Cadmus) thrust a javelin into it.

Cadmus, whilst founding the city of Thebes, came across the Serpent of Mars, who had killed several Phoenicians. Swearing to avenge their deaths, he overcame the snake in a single combat, first attacking it with a boulder, then a javelin, and finally blocking the serpent's jaws with a spear and pinning him to an oak tree. In this illustration, Cadmus appears to have been helped in his endeavours by his comrades (Ovid, Metamorphoses, III).

Record details

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Online ID: 000-180-002-360-C
Image Rights Holder: National Museums Scotland
Project: 0504: National Museums Scotland Part 2
Project description | View all records in project
Ref: National Museums Scotland  A.1878.13.18
Date: 1540 - 1550
Between 1540 and 1550
Material: Earthenware. Inscription: chaddamo serpente
Dimensions: 45 mm H x 282 mm D
Subject: Ceramics : earthenware : Italy : Urbino
Who: Cadmus (Depicted)
Guido di Merlino Workshop (?), Urbino (Maker)
H.S. James Collection (Previous owner)
Orazio Fontana (Possible maker)
Where: Italy, Urbino
Description: Maiolica dish painted in colours with Cadmus and the Serpent of Mars: Italian, Urbino, perhaps Guido di Merlino Workshop, 1540 - 1550
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