According to the ancient Greek historian Herodotus, King Astyages of Media dreamt that his daughter, Mandane, bore a son whose power reached across the world like the vigorous growth of a fruit-bearing vine. The dream forecast the reign of Cyrus the Great (559–530 BCE) who deposed his grandfather, Astyages, and expanded the borders of the Persian Empire. This story is recounted in the polychrome composition on this maiolica (tin-glazed earthenware) by Francesco Xanto Avelli da Rovigo, widely regarded as the master of istoriato (history) wares. The muscular figures and naturalistic setting reveal Xanto’s familiarity with the latest developments in painting. However, the remarkable quality of this plate derives from its brilliant palette and two-color luster (oxidized metal glaze): iridescent ruby red and gold. Xanto clearly acknowledged this; there are not one, but two signatures on the back of the plate, that of Xanto the painter and of Maestro Cencio, who added the luster.

From Bulletin of the Detroit Institute of Arts 89 (2015)
Artist Francesco Xanto Avelli da Rovigo, Italian, ca. 1492-ca. 1542
Collaborator Vincenzo Andreoli (Master Cencio), Italian, active late 16th century
  • Plate with Broad Border (Tondino) Depicting the Dream of Astyages
Date 1535
Medium Maiolica, tin-glazed earthenware with polychromy and three-color luster decoration
Dimensions Overall: 10 1/16 inches (25.6 cm)
Credit Line Museum Purchase, Robert H. Tannahill Foundation Fund and Joseph M. de Grimme Memorial Fund
Accession Number 2011.19
Department European Sculpture and Dec Arts
On View European: Medieval and Renaissance W231, Level 2 (see map)
Signed Signed, on underside, with initials of the artist: .F..X..R.
Inscriptions Inscribed, in black on reverse: .1535. | Dil vecchio Astiage Re l'alta visione. .F..X..R. [translation: the exalted vision of old King Astyages, F[rancesco] X[anto] A[velli]]
Inscribed, in luster: N.
1884, Albert von Parpart sale;
1930, Havemeyer sale;
private collection (Virginia, USA);
October 7, 2010, sold by (Freeman's, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA) lot 2027;
Justin Raccanello (London, England) and Camille Leprince (Paris, France);
(Alain Moatti, Paris, France);
2011-present, purchase by the Detroit Institute of Arts (Detroit, Michigan, USA)
"Acquisitions of the Year" Apollo Magazine (December 2011).

Bulletin of the DIA 87, no. 1/4: Italian Renaissance and Later Ceramics (2013): cat. no. 15.

Darr, Alan Phipps, Yao-Fen You, and Megan Reddicks. “Recent Acquisitions (2007–15) of European Sculpture and Decorative Arts at the Detroit Institute of Arts.” The Burlington Magazine 158 (June 2016): 501–512, p. 503 (ill.).

From the Havemeyer Estate. Sales cat., Anderson Galleries Inc., New York, 1930, cat. no. 610, p. 106 (ill.).

Mallet, J.V.G. Xanto: Pottery-Painter, Poet, Man of the Italian Renaissance. Exh. cat., The Wallace Collection. London, 2007, Appendix C: no. 271, p. 197.

Bulletin of the DIA: Notable Acquisitions, 2000–2015 89, no. 1/4 (2015): p. 72 (ill.).