In Renaissance Italy parturition or birthing sets were used to serve nourishing food—such as meat broth—to women confined to bed during pregnancy and after childbirth. These sets generally consisted of five or more pieces, including various bowls, a tray, a saltcellar, and a pierced cover, all of which fit together in a baluster form when not in use. This set, preserving three pieces, is the largest surviving example.
The painted decoration on each piece depicts a scene in a bedchamber immediately following birth: bathing, swaddling, and nursing the newborn infant. Lively “grotesques,” typical of the maiolica workshop of Orazio Fontana in Urbino, fill the remaining surfaces.
Artist attributed to Fontana Workshop, Italian, 1500-1700
  • Childbirth Set
  • Shallow Bowl
  • Ongaresca (alternate title)
Date ca. between 1560 and 1570
Medium Tin-glazed earthenware with enamel decoration
Dimensions Overall: 2 × 8 3/8 inches (5.1 × 21.3 cm)
Credit Line Founders Society Purchase, Mr. and Mrs. Henry Ford II Fund
Accession Number 59.124.C
Department European Sculpture and Dec Arts
On View European: Medieval and Renaissance W231, Level 2 (see map)
Baron Nathaniel de Rothschild (Vienna, Austria);
sold by (Rosenberg & Stiebel, New York, New York, USA);
1959-present, purchase by the Detroit Institute of Arts (Detroit, Michigan, USA)
Bojani, G.C. Ceramica Nelle Marche. Bergamo, 1988, p. 131 (ill.).

Catalog Nathaniel Rothschld. Vienna, 1903, no. 147.

Dennis, Jessie McNab. "Ceramics and Glass." The Triumph of Humanism. Exh. cat., Fine Arts Museum of San Francisco. San Francisco, 1977 (fig. 91).

Grigaut, P.L. "Two Pieces of Ceramic." Bulletin of the DIA 38, no. 4 (1958/59): pp. 85-87, p. 86 (ill.).

The Triumph of Humanism. Exh. cat., Fine Arts Museum of San Francisco. San Francisco, ca. 1977, pp. 65, 89, no. 165.

Musacchio, Jacqueline Marie. The Art and Ritual of Childbirth in Renaissance Italy. ca. 1999, pp. 126-127, no. 116.

Musacchio, Jacqueline Marie. Marvels of Maiolica: Italian Renaissance Ceramics from the Corcoran Gallery of Art Collection. 2004, p. 53, no. 39.

Bayer, A., et al. Art and Love in Renaissance Italy. Exh. cat. New York, 2008, cat. no. 84a-c, pp. 172-174.

Bulletin of the DIA 87, no. 1/4: Italian Renaissance and Later Ceramics (2013): cat. no. 23.