14. Italy, Deruta, Maiolica dish, c. 1490-1525 inscribed PÊDORMIRENONSAQUISTA ('nothing is gained by sleeping'). Dia. 40 cm Height 8 cm. (British Museum)When applied to maiolica, the term 'belle donne' (Italian 'beautiful women') usually refers to a category of dishes or plates bearing female heads and a scroll inscribed with a name or motto. They were produced in large numbers in several Italian pottery centres between around 1520 and 1550, for a wide variety of clients. The female image is idealized to such a degree that it is unlikely to be an accurate likeness of a particular woman. However, the names, either with or without adjective or mottoes, are thought to refer to contemporary women, often local worthies or local beauties, as suggested by a contemporary sonnet addressed to a potter in Todi, not far from Deruta. Those pieces with a moralizing inscription are not belle donne wares in the true sense, but are part of the artistic tradition of portraying female images with a moralizing statement, often one that appears to be specifically addressed to a female audience.