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Plate depicting Narcissus

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D1927. Blue and White Plate

Blue and White Plate, dated 1760

Painted in the center with the mythological story of Narcissus, depicting a seated Narcissus looking at his reflection in the water, with two hunting dogs and trees in the background, the rim with a floral trellis diaperwork band reserved with four panels painted with flowering plants.

Diameter: 23 cm. (9 in.)


The classic, mythological story of Echo and Narcissus is written in book three of Ovid’s Metamorphoses. One day when Narcissus was walking in the woods, the nymph Echo saw him and fell in love with him. Narcissus sensed he was being followed and shouted “Who’s there?” upon which Echo repeated “Who’s there?”. When she eventually revealed her identity and tried to embrace him, Narcissus rejected her. She was heartbroken and spent the rest of her life in lonely glens until nothing remained of her but an echo sound. Nemesis (as an aspect of Aphrodite), the goddess of revenge decided to punish Narcissus after learning this story.

The plate depicts the moment when Narcissus was getting thirsty after hunting and was lured by Nemesis to a pool. He leaned upon the water and saw himself in the bloom of youth, not realizing that it was merely his own reflection. Narcissus fell deeply in love with it and was unable to leave the allure of his image. He eventually realized that his love could not be reciprocated and he melted away from the fire of passion burning inside him, eventually turning into a gold and white flower. This myth inspired many artists and artisans, and the Delftware painter who probably decorated this plate after a print.

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