AVELLI, Francesco Xanto
(b. ca. 1487, Rovigo, d. ca. 1542, Urbino)


Italian maiolica painter, ceramicist. More is known about Avelli than any other maiolica painter because of his many signed works and the autobiographical details included in his sonnets in honour of Francesco Maria I della Rovere, Duke of Urbino. Avelli considered himself to be not only an artist but also a poet and courtier. His intellectual abilities set him apart from his colleagues, even if as a painter he was not the most talented. He seems never to have directed his own workshop, but he is known to have worked in Urbino from 1530, the year of his first unequivocally signed and dated plate; some pieces from the 1520s signed F.R. and F.L.R. may also be ascribed to him.

His familiarity with Classical and contemporary literature is evident in his choice of secular and religious subjects, taken from such authors as Virgil and Ovid, Ariosto and Petrarch (e.g. plate, 1531; London, British Museum). He also depicted contemporary events, sometimes in allegorical form, for example the Sack of Rome (1527). His style is characterized by a strong sense of line, an interest in anatomy and architecture and the use of a broad and usually harmonious palette that sometimes included iridescent lustres. His imaginative compositions frequently relied on a montage technique in which he juxtaposed figures drawn from prints, occasionally borrowing an entire scene from one graphic source. Several of his commissions were for important services, among them one for a member of the Pucci family of Florence.