£240,000 for penis plate

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A leading museum has added a bawdy 16th century work of art to its collection, depicting a human head made up of small images of penises.

The work - affectionately known as "dickhead" - was bought for almost a quarter of a million pounds for the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford.

The design is glazed on to a ceramic plate and is one of the most celebrated pieces of Italian Renaissance pottery.

The humorous maiolica plate parodies other such designs which were popular at the time it was created in 1536 by Francisco Urbino.

His dish parodies the "bella donna" style of dishes which bear portraits of young girls, by creating the slightly grotesque image out of penises, one of which is pierced.

A ribbon-like strip running around the back of the head bears an inscription, written in reverse, which translates as "every man looks at me as if I were a head of dicks".

A £100,000 grant towards the £240,000 price came from the National Art Collections Fund, the largest it has given for a ceramic object. Further funding came from the Resource Purchase Grant Fund.

David Barrie, director of the National Art Collections Fund, said: "This magnificent piece really made us sit up and take notice - we're often asked to support extraordinary things, but we'd never seen anything like this before."
 

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