22 Oct 02 Apr 2016

The girl and the sea

Thousands of years old, mysterious depictions of sea creatures — Florence Gottet collection

This special exhibition at the Spielzeug Welten Museum Basel is dedicated to so-called fish plates. The name is derived from their characteristic markings; yet it is not known how they would have been referred to in ancient times. The 60 or so dishes on display were created around 350/325 B.C., mainly in Campania, Apulia, Paestum and Athens. They were homage to life and earthly pleasures and gave expression to the hope of a happy afterlife. Fish and the sea were symbols of life, as they still are today — the ocean is effectively the source of all life.

The extraordinary thing about this remarkable exhibition is its genesis. The fish plates belonged to a young girl, Florence Gottet, who sadly died much too young. The fun-loving daughter of
the Gottet family felt closely connected to the sea and its inhabitants throughout her life. She once asked: Do fish laugh? The playful, colorful fish paintings exerted a great fascination in her.
Pablo Picasso also drew inspiration from the depictions on the fish plates, producing artistic ceramic creations of his own. Six of his interpretations of fish plates from the 1950s can be seen in the exhibit.

The fish plates have a very distinctive shape: The smooth surface of the plate rests on a trumpet-like foot that dips slightly toward the center. There is a small round indentation at this point. The outer edge of the plate is bent almost vertically downward, hiding a large part of the foot.
Due to the plates’ unusual shape, many attempts have been made to explain their use. The debate still rages today among experts of the field. The fish plates harbor unaired secrets: Were the plates used to serve fish dishes or as objects of a particular drinking game? Or were they rather burial objects?

Opening hours: Museum, Tuesday to Sunday from 10 to 18 Museum, in December, daily from 10 to 18 Ristorante La Sosta and Museum shop, daily from 10 to 18

Admission: CHF 7.00/5.00 Children up to 16 years are admitted free of charge, only if accompanied by an adult. No additional charge for the special exhibition.