This dish was once part of a tableware service belonging to the Calini family of Brescia, whose coat-of-arms are in the center. It was painted by Nicola da Urbino, one of the most famous Italian ceramics painters in the first half of the sixteenth century. He specialized in istoriato (historiated) works, which depicted narrative scenes from history, mythology, or religion. The dish is further distinguished by a ring of elegant bianco sopra bianco (white on white) decoration between the coat-of-arms and the istoriato painting on the wide rim.
The decoration on this plate refers to episodes from Ovid's Metamorphoses that involve musical themes. The figures are adapted from two woodcuts that originally appeared in an illustrated, printed edition of the Metamorphoses published in 1497. On the far left, the goddess Athena plays the bagpipes. Next, Apollo watches the satyr Marysas playing a syrinx. The following scene shows Marsyas discovering Athena’s discarded bagpipes. On the far right, we see the results of a musical contest between Apollo and Marsyas: a victorious Apollo punishes his opponent, now an old man, by tying him to a tree and flaying him alive. This gruesome subject had a moral component, warning viewers against the sin of pride.