My essay “‘Desco da parto’: The Birth Tray and its Cultural Significance in Renaissance Italy,” now appears in Midwifery Today 125 (Spring 2018): 26-28.
In this essay, I describe the practical and decorative use of the desco da parto or birth tray in Renaissance Italy. After the Black Death, birth trays were used from 1370 to the third quarter of the sixteenth century to serve the mother’s first postpartum meal: They commemorated the life of mother and baby kept safe in childbirth. The deschi featured both secular and sacred scenes, painted in tempera, with gilded borders. They could be round, twelve-sided or sixteen-sided. After serving their primary purpose, they could later be hung upon walls in family homes and passed from one generation to the next.
IMAGES OF DESCHI
Triumph of Chastity
birth tray presented to Lucrezia di Giovanni Tornbuoni,
mother of Lorenzo de’Medici, “the Magnificent”
Other biblical, allegorical or mythological desci images: