The Sixth Day of an 1862 Christmas…

On the sixth day of Christmas the 1862 Committee gave to me… six Geese a Laying

Thomas Kirkby, Giulio Romano, tazza, earthenware, Milton, Stoke-on-Trent, England, 1862, Victoria and Albert Museum, 8110-1863 © V&A, 2013

Thomas Kirkby, Giulio Romano, tazza, earthenware, Milton, Stoke-on-Trent, England, 1862, Victoria and Albert Museum, 8110-1863 © V&A, 2013

This earthenware tazza was made by Milton in Stoke-on-Trent for display at the 1862 International Exhibition.  Painted by Thomas Kirkby, after the work of the Italian Renaissance artist, Giulio Romano, the tazza depicts the Apotheosis of the Amours of Jupiter.  Jupiter, the Roman god of gods, had many love affairs, each of which had a set of iconographical images associated with them.  For the purposes of this festive feature, the most interesting iconography in this depiction of Jupiter’s romantic attachments is his association with Leda, Queen of Sparta.  When Jupiter made love to Leda she turned into a swan and is said to have laid one or two eggs from which were born Castor and Pollux, Helen and Clytemnestra.  A broken eggshell can be seen with two small boys in the bottom right hand section of this tazza.  Milton’s choice of this image of a swan ‘a laying’ is illustrative of a nineteenth-century concern to look to the past for good examples in order to inspire the design of the present and future.

© Helen Cresswell and Ruth Mason, 2013

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