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Last Updated: Thursday, 18 September, 2003, 12:47 GMT 13:47 UK
Museum buys Renaissance erotica
The Italian plate, attributable to Francesco Urbini, 1536 (picture courtesy of the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford)
The Renaisance work is thought to be by Francisco Urbini (pic: Ashmolean Museum, Oxford)
A leading museum has added what could be described as a piece of 16th century pornography - an image of a male head made up of about 50 penises - to its collection.

The work, one of the most celebrated pieces of Italian Renaissance pottery, has been bought by the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford for nearly 250,000.

Glazed onto a ceramic plate, the humourous work is thought to have been made by Francisco Urbini in 1536.

Written in reverse in the background of the image is the inscription: "Ogni homo me guarda come fosse una testa de cazi".

The museum was able to purchase the work with 100,000 funding from the National Art Collections Fund - the largest given for a ceramic piece - while further cash was donated from the Resource Purchase Grant Fund and private supporters.

David Barrie, director of the National Art Collections Fund, said: "This magnificent piece really made us sit up and take notice.

"We are often asked to support extraordinary things, but we had never seen anything like this before."

The museum says the plate was presumably made with an individual in mind.

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