A maiolica dish for use during childbirth

c. 1550
Italy, Urbino, Fontana Workshop
tin-glazed earthenware
17.2 x 21.5 x 2.9 cm

In Renaissance Italy, the material culture associated with childbirth was rich and highly sophisticated. The dangers to both the mother and the child during pregnancy meant that healthy births were celebrated events, when mothers would be congratulated with gifts and food. The demographic tensions inherent in a society bound by dynastic success while being simultaneously afflicted by recurring bouts of plague epidemics resulted in a ritual of childbirth that was intended to affirm, comfort and encourage. As the production of maiolica flourished in Italy during the sixteenth century, ceramic wares painted with birth-related images became integral parts of the material culture necessary to this ritual. 

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Sam Fogg
Art of the Middle Ages