Edited by Luca Giunta Baroni

The romantic 19th century attributed the name ‘Venetian-Saracen’ to the group of bronze and brass objects to which this large display plate belongs. A Levantine product, therefore, but marketed and then replicated by Venetian merchants and artisans to satisfy the massive demand for exotic luxury crafts that characterised the European courts of the late Renaissance.

Sylvia Auld’s recent research has made it possible to distinguish three historical phases of the creation of these objects1. A first nucleus was executed in North Africa during the last years of the Mamluk Sultanate (c. 1450-1517) and is characterised by the use of geometric decorations, forms of European inspiration and the absence of inscriptions2.

A second group, produced expressly for export, is recognisable by the presence of silver inserts. A third group, to which the dish discussed here belongs, was made by Venetian masters who imitated Arab products and is distinguished by the adoption of freer decorative models directly inspired by Western canons, with rigid compartmentalisation of the ornament that enhances, rather than hiding, the forms of support3.

In our case, the bare-breasted Sphinxes and Venuses arranged along the outer edge of the front are typically Venetian. The frieze, with acanthus leaves, masks and cherubs, is also Western, so that of the original ‘Saracen” inspiration only the materials and the execution technique survive4.

1 Sylvia Auld, Renaissance Venice, Islam and Mahmud the Kurd. A metalworking enigma, London 2004.

2 See Melikian-Chirvani 1982 and Curatola 2020, passim.

3 Ward-Jackson 1967, pp. 90-103. For dishes belonging to the same category see, e.g., London, The Courtauld Institute, inv. O.1966.GP.202; London, Victoria & Albert Museum, inv. M.38-1946; Sotheby’s - London, 4.7.1996, lot 76; Sotheby’s - New York, 31.01.2013, lot 365; Florence, Bargello Museum.

4 Auld 2004, p. 230.

Peter Ward-Jackson, Some main streams and Tributaries in European Ornament (1500 to 1750). The Arabesque, “Victoria and Albert Museum Bulletin”, III, 3 (1967), pp. 90-103

Sylvia Auld, Renaissance Venice, Islam and Mahmud the Kurd. A metalworking enigma, London 2004

Assadullah Souren Melikian-Chirvani, Islamic Metalwork from the Iranian World. 8-18th Centuries, London 1982

Giovanni Curatola, Islamic Metalwork from the Aron Col- lection, Milano 2020

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