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By Mafra, Manuel Cipriano Gomes (Portuguese, 1829-1905)
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Manuel Mafra (1829-1905), is often regarded as perhaps the pre-eminent Portuguese ceramicist of the 19th Century, and this plate amply demonstrates his exceptional artistic and technical abilities.
The plate shows a violent struggle between a snake and a lizard on a patch of grass, with beetles crawling through it. This was a classic subject which Mafra depicted on many of his works, representing his interpretation of famed 16th Century potter Bernard Palissy's 'figulines rustiques', which often depicted idyllic scenes of pond life.
The animal figures are beautifully rendered and wonderfully detailed, as is typical of Mafra's work: note, for example, the scales on the snake's skin, and the fine, vivid colouring on the lizard's body.
There are impressed marks to the reverse reading 'M. MAFRA / CALDAS / PORTUGAL' and the number '8'. 'Caldas' refers to Caldas de Rainha, a small town in Portugal in which Mafra, and later many other important ceramicists, operated.
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