Florence art guide

Della Robbia

della robbia

Sculptors and ceramists

A Florentine family of sculptors and ceramists active from the 15th to the 16th century. The most famous is Luca (Florence, late 14th century - 1482). He studied the work of Ghiberti and Nanni di Banco and also learned a great deal from Donatello. Apart from the excellent quality of his sculpture, he was also famous for his invention of glazed terracotta, whose secret was passed down to his nephew Andrea (Florence 1435-1525) and to Andrea's son, Giovanni (Florence 1469-1529).

santa maria del fiore
St. Maria del Fiore
Cantoria - detail

Luca carried out many important works in Florence, for example the Cantoria or choir-loft for the Sacristy of the Duomo (1431-38), which can be seen today in the Museum of the Opera del Duomo, the bas-reliefs in the lower part of the Belltower of the Duomo (1437-39), the four large tondos on the ceiling of the Pazzi Chapel, the funeral monument to Bishop Benozzo Federighi in Santa Trinita (1454-57) and the magnificent ceiling of the Chapel of the Cardinal of Portugal in San Miniato (1461-66). Critics consider his nephew Andrea, close to Verrocchio in style, as being a minor sculptor, far too conventional and formal, though he was gifted with a fine colour sense and was a master in its use.

Ospedale degl'Innocenti
Ospedale degl'Innocenti
Tondos on facade

His finest works are the Visitation, in the Church of San Giovanni Fuorcivitas at Pistoia, the beautiful series of puttos between the arches of the Spedale degli Innocenti (1463) and his lunette under the Loggia of the Hospital of San Paolo in Piazza Santa Maria Novella (1490-95).
The most important work to be carried out by Andrea's son, Giovanni, though under the guidance of his father, were the fine bas-reliefs on the facade of the hospital at Pistoia. Under Giovanni, the workshop began a large-scale production of tabernacles and altars, which can be found all over Tuscany but which were of lesser artistic value.
Another of his sons, Gerolamo (Florence 1488-Paris 1566), left the workshop in 1527 and went to France, where he also worked at the Castle of Fontainebleau.

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