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Object Analysis: Urbino, Francesco Xanto Avelli Plate

Free «Object Analysis: Urbino, Francesco Xanto Avelli Plate» Essay Sample

Urbino, Francesco Xanto Avelli Plate: Allegory of the Sack of Rome, 5 May 1527

Artworks are of particular importance to the place that they come from as they hold the originality of that particular place. They are a heritage that is a unique part of the society in which they are originally found. The analysis of artwork has evolved considerably with the technological advancement, allowing to examine various aspects of the item more deeply. The high definition of both static and dynamic images captured with cameras makes the object of study virtually available in two dimensions. However, the study of the real image without the incorporation of the digital enhancements is far much natural and real. The artwork under analysis is on one of the collections of Kenneth Reed, an extraordinary collection of Renaissance maiolica, Urbino, Francesco Xanto Avelli Plate. There has been the extensive usage of both elements and principles of design to bring out vividly the properties of the plate.

General Information About the Artwork

This impressive large plate has paintings of 26 figures and a few soldiers holding their victims. The 26 figures include St. Peter with his keys, Cupid, Venus, and Juno with her peacock. On the back of the plate, there is an elaborate inscription about what happened. The translation of the inscription is “On the 5th May under the patronage Juno, the lancers and Spaniards entered Rome and held Peter and Bacchus in their power History Francesco Xanto Avelli of Rovigo painted it in Urbino 1530.” In other words, the painting is a description of the events that took place on 5-6 May 1527, the time when the city of Rome was attacked by troops of the Holy Roman Empire[1]. The artwork was originally made in the year 1530 by Francesco Xanto Avelli in Europe. The material is ceramic pottery, and the size of the plate is 46.0 centimeters in diameter. The artwork represents a record of the war that took place in Rome and is probably intended to the commemorate the day when the city was attacked.


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Description of the Artwork

The artwork as already known is a round plate with inscriptions of figures on the front part of the plate while on the back there is word inscription that describes the event, its timing, and the parties involved. The plate emphasizes on the art of war and the repercussions involved as it contains soldiers with their captives as well the story behind, stating that Rome was invaded, and Peter and Bacchus captivated.

The Form of the Artwork

The artwork has a three-dimensional due to its nature. On the other hand, the inscriptions on the plate are two-dimensional because they are inscribed pictures of the events that took place during the attack on Rome. The study of the plate is also considered to be three dimensional because it is examined on both sides, the top part of the pictures and the bottom part with the written inscriptions[2].

The Elements Used in Artwork

Almost all the elements of drawing have been used starting from the simple dots to complex lines and coloring that make the plate sophisticatedly decorated. Most of the lines used are curved and wavy to form the shapes of the human figures. Thus, it is the main peculiarity of the curved lines in the objects created. However, the use of straight lines is also present to depict buildings in the background, as well as some of the objects like the spears in the foreground. The lines used as the elements of drawing vary in thickness to provide different shapes and create the intended impressions.

The shapes forming the image on the plate are also varied. First, in the background, there is the dominance of massive shapes of buildings that have been realized by the use of straight horizontal, vertical and diagonal lines. There are also silhouettes of the mountains that appear to be purple colored.  In the middle ground, different forms are represented by  the elements of drawing. In the middle of the plate are clouds with cupids. They have a rather realistic effect on the viewer due to extensive use of curved lines of a varied thickness to form the different shapes of the objects.

The light effects being represented in the inscription play a significant role in attaining the required effect. Some parts of the inscription create a sharp contrast, for example, on the left side of the plate, there is a pillar one side of which is dark, which is sharply distinguished by the cream color.  The contrasting usage of colors has also been used in other parts of the inscribed picture to create and emphasize some of the formed images. There is the usage of tinting on the figures of the people mostly to create the shapes, especially in depicting the muscles of their almost nude bodies. Extensive shading has been done on the image to bring the sharp contrast that forms the shapes. The use of hues is perfectly blended with the real colors.

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Space in the inscription has been used maximally right from the background to the foreground since from one figure to another; there is hardly any space except for the background on the upper left side showing the sky. The use of colors in the artwork is extensive and diverse. First and foremost, different shades of yellow as a primary color dominate the inscription from the background to the foreground. The second color in dominance in the artwork is purple but with limited shades. However, it should be noted that it is not extensively manipulated in terms of varying compared to the yellow palette.

One more conspicuous element of the artwork is the texture. The figures are inscribed on a plate that is three-dimensional, which makes the image look rather realistic3.

Principle of Design

The center of interest on the plate is the crouching Venus, a massive figure that is in nudity with a small cupid above. Its position in the middle of the plate, as well as the size, makes it a more conspicuous compared to other objects depicted on the plate. It is the most eye-catching element and thus, performs the role of a so-called identifier of the artwork.

Secondly, balance as a principle of design and has been utilized effectively by the painter. This balance is evident from the use of colors, their tints, and shade as well as a perfect blending of these elements to come up with the desired visual effects of shape and forms on the inscription. Moreover, a perfect balance is attained by placing the objects symmetrically as well as making them of the corresponding size. The objects (for example, the bodies the people inscribed are of the same size). It adds realistic effect to the inscription. Also, balance is present in terms of perspective. Close objects are bigger than the distant ones. Their sizes decrease with an increase in the distance from the foreground to the background.

Another principle of design utilized in the inscription is a harmony of the objects and forms. The artist has combined these principles of design to bring unity to the inscription. For example, from the background, there is the combination of vertical, horizontal, and diagonal lines in depicting buildings with. In the upper middle part of the inscription, there is the use of curved lines with varying tints to convey the clouds. Moreover, harmony is attained by the use of color to bring the intended image and form. For example, purple and blue colors have been applied extensively, depicting the clothing of the figures on the inscription.  The yellow color with varying tints is aimed to show the body surface of the people depicted.

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Contrast forms the other principle of design being extensively used. Color contrast is evident to make the forms and images in the artwork vivid and dynamic. For example, the varying tints of yellow color have been used in contrast with other colors to make the human figures stand out as well as to emphasize the particular activities that they are engaged in.  Their clothes are in sharp contrast with the environment to emphasize the body parts as well as other objects around them. The purple color has been utilized to contrast with other colors and make an impression of the sky both in the middle and the background.

Directional movement is yet another design element put into use in the image.  The effects of direction and movement have been attained by the use of color variation. For example, the placement of Saint Peter with the keys is different from other forms and objects that are that are around him. It shows that he is in a different set up from the other objects[3]. It is a unique principle as it enables one to make an in-depth comparison and contrast the objects in the required area. Another example of directional movement is the placement of cupids in the clouds to indicate them as the observers of the scene that can fly. This idea has been enhanced by the depiction of wings on their backs, proving that love is above the happenings of the material world. However, the allegories of the author are very numerous and sometimes are hard to decipher.

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Finally, rhythm has been utilized to show the flow of the objects and the connectivity with the others. This principle of design is more evident on the upper part of the inscription, where the clouds are depicted. The artist has used color tints and wavy lines to show the existence of rhythm in the clouds as they spread from right to left and extend above. The purple color is essential in all the effected intended by the painter. Thus, it has also been used to show the rhythm in the sky with the tints fading as one extends to the background to show the horizon.  Looking at the clothing of the human figures, the rhythm is represented by the tints of both purple and blue colors to show the folds of the clothes on the body. The use of rhythm makes the objects and forms look real, and one can make a distinction of the forms on the inscription of the plate.

Opinions and Conclusions

Opinions on the Artwork

The analyzed artwork is an outstanding work and one of the most distinguished and big creations of the painter. The author masterfully brings together different elements of design that are applied variedly, from the use of dots to complex lines. All these features are aimed to provide the sensation that the image is realistic and three-dimensional. From the above analysis, it is evident that the elements and the principles of design help to bring to reality the three-dimensional forms of the image. The artwork has communicated the essence of both elements and principles of design in the field of arts.


The paper has provided the analysis of the big plate by Francesco Xanto Avelli that was made in 1530 by inscribing different images and forms in the plate. There has also been an elaborate analysis of the plate both in the inside and the outside.  The combination of the elements and principles are essential in creating the artwork to bring about its unique features and convey the intended message to the audience.

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