Earthenware plate showing breast feeding, Italy, 1601-1800
Scenes of childbirth and nursing newborns were common in parturition or birthing sets. Originally dating from the 1400s and 1500s in Italy, these highly decorated pieces were used to serve foods to wealthy women during their pregnancy or after childbirth. Childbirth was and still is risky. Birthing sets commemorated a successful pregnancy and birth. Recent mothers also underwent confinement or lying-in. This normally occurred four to six weeks after birth. She was served food in her chambers probably using a birthing set like this. Images of birth in some sets gave women positive images to concentrate on. Parturition sets consisted of several pieces ingeniously stacked together. This glazed earthenware example shows a mother breastfeeding her child. It forms part of a set with A645207.
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Glossary: breast feeding
The process of synthesising milk from the breasts, usually a child from its mother.
A shallow vessel usually circular and of earthenware or china from which food is eaten or served.
Pottery made of clay which is fired at a relatively low temperature. Earthenware is often semi-porous, meaning some liquid or air can pass through it. This can be altered by treating the pottery with a glaze.