The J. Paul Getty Museum

Plate with the Abduction of Helen

Object Details


Plate with the Abduction of Helen


Francesco Xanto Avelli (Italian, 1486/1487 - about 1544)




Urbino, Italy (Place Created)




Tin-glazed earthenware

Object Number:



6.4 × 46 cm (2 1/2 × 18 1/8 in.)

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Object Description

Francesco Xanto Avelli painted the entire surface of this large plate with a scene of the abduction of Helen by the Trojans. It shows the moment when Helen, the beautiful daughter of Zeus, is being forced into a boat by the Trojans. Her kidnapping caused a war between the Greeks and the men of Troy.

Xanto copied the scene from a popular engraving of Helen's abduction. Beginning in the mid-1400s, prints and engravings were widely available and were frequently adapted by artists to fit the circular shapes of ceramics. Xanto probably transferred the image by pricking the print with small holes, placing the cartoon against the ceramic surface, and then rubbing a dark powder on it, which would copy the lines of the image onto the plate when it passed through the holes.

The back of the plate is inscribed in blue with the date, the artist's signature, and a verse describing the mythological scene on the front.

- 1978

Private Collection [sold, Sotheby's, London, November 21, 1978, lot 44, to Rainer Zietz Limited.]

1978 - 1984

Rainer Zietz Limited, sold to the J. Paul Getty Museum, 1984.

L'arte del Vasaio: The Italian Renaissance Potter's Art (February 5, 1991 to January 4, 1992)
  • The J. Paul Getty Museum (Malibu), February 5, 1991 to January 5, 1992
French Master Drawings (December 3, 1991 to February 16, 1992)
  • The J. Paul Getty Museum (Malibu), December 3, 1991 to February 16, 1992

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González-Palacios, Alvar, ed. Objects for a "Wunderkammer" exh. cat. (London: P.D. Colnaghi and Co., Ltd., 1981), pp. 124-25, no. 65.

"Acquisitions/1984." The J. Paul Getty Museum Journal 13 (1985), p. 243, no. 176, ill.

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Hess, Catherine. Italian Maiolica: Catalogue of the Collections (Malibu: J. Paul Getty Museum, 1988), pp. 101-103, no. 31, ill.

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Bremer-David, Charissa, et al. Decorative Arts: An Illustrated Summary Catalogue of the Collections of the J. Paul Getty Museum (Malibu: J. Paul Getty Museum, 1993), p. 207, no. 359, ill.

Roseo, Paola. "Gli istoriati della collezione Doria-Pamphilj." Ceramic'Antica 5, no. 10 (November 1995), fig. 19.

Wilson, Gillian, and Catherine Hess. Summary Catalogue of European Decorative Arts in the J. Paul Getty Museum (Los Angeles: J. Paul Getty Museum, 2001), p. 183, no. 367, ill.

Hess, Catherine. Italian Ceramics: Catalogue of the J. Paul Getty Museum Collection (Los Angeles: J. Paul Getty Museum, 2002), pp. 166-69, no. 29, ill.

Thornton, Dora and Timothy Wilson. Italian Renaissance Ceramics: A catalogue of the British Museum collection. 2 vols. (London: The British Museum Press, 2009), vol. 1, p. 252, n7, under no. 151.

Christie's, New York. The Exceptional Sale. April 20, 2018, p. 18, ill.