Robbia, Andrea della - Madonna and Child with Cherubim

Robbia, Andrea della: “Madonna and Child with Cherubim”, c. 1485, glazed terracotta. Andrew W. Mellon Collection

Della Robbia sculptures at NGA Washington

‘Della Robbia: Sculpting with Color in Renaissance Florence’ is the first major American exhibition dedicated to works by three generations of the Della Robbia family and their competitors. National Gallery of Art, Washington, from February 5 through June 4, 2017.

Source: National Gallery of Art, Washington

Some 40 examples illustrate the range of sculptural types produced by the workshop—Madonna and Child reliefs, architectural decoration, portraits, household statuettes, and large-scale figures in the round. Even today the ceramics retain their signature opaque whites, deep cerulean blues, and lively greens, purples, and yellows, due to the glazing technique invented by sculptor Luca della Robbia (1399/1400–1482). While drawn chiefly from American collections, the exhibition also includes six major loans from Italy, among them Luca's masterpiece, The Visitation (c. 1445). On loan from the church of San Giovanni Fuorcivitas in Pistoia, the work is traveling to the United States for the first time for the exhibition's two venues.

"With the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, the Gallery is proud to present the first exhibition in the United States devoted to the wonderful sculptures of the Della Robbia family, which stand the test of time as powerful examples of Renaissance creativity and refinement," said Earl A. Powell III, director, National Gallery of Art, Washington. "The sculptures selected also show the perception of American collectors who brought so many superb Della Robbia works to this country. We are grateful to the Altria Group and to the Antinori family for making the exhibition possible, and to Sally Engelhard Pingree and The Charles Engelhard Foundation, the Buffy and William Cafritz Family Foundation, and The Exhibition Circle for their generous support."

Born at the cusp of the 15th century to a family active in the textile industry, Luca della Robbia became a successful marble sculptor by the 1430s, famous for his reliefs of music-making children for a choir gallery in the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore. Praised around 1435 by the art theorist Leone Battista Alberti as a leading contemporary Florentine artist alongside Donatello, Ghiberti, Masaccio, and Brunelleschi, Luca went on to secure his rank as one of the most important Florentine artists of the Renaissance by inventing a glazing technique—and with it an entirely new art form.

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