Della Robbia

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Della Robbia

Della Robbia (dĕlˌə rŏbˈēə, Ital. dĕlˈlä rôbˈbyä), Florentine family of sculptors and ceramists famous for their enameled terra-cotta or faience. Many of the Della Robbia pieces are still in their original settings in Florence, Siena, and other Italian cities, but the finest collections are in Florence in the cathedral, the Bargello, and the Italian Academy, and in London in the Victoria and Albert Museum. Luca della Robbia, 1400?–1482, founder of the atelier, was known first as a sculptor in bronze and marble. He was commissioned (1421) to design the choir gallery of the cathedral at Florence. Later he perfected a process for making clay reliefs and figures permanent by coating them with a glaze compounded of tin, antimony, and other substances (the exact method of producing it is still unknown). By adding color to his naturalistic works he combined the art of sculpture with that of painting in a new and inventive manner. In his panels and medallions, the Madonna and saints and angels usually appear coated in a creamy white glaze on a cerulean blue background, sometimes with touches of gold and color in the decorative setting. A Madonna and Child is in the Metropolitan Museum. Andrea della Robbia, 1435–1525?, nephew and chief pupil of Luca, made a marble altar for a church near Arezzo and extended the use of clay to whole altarpieces (one is in the Church of Santa Croce, Florence), friezes, and fountains. His medallions on the Foundling Hospital, Florence, show simple baby forms (bambini) on blue ground, but in many of his medallions the central figures are framed in garlands of richly colored fruits and flowers. The Virgin in Adoration, an unglazed terra-cotta relief, is in the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C. Andrea della Robbia's sons, Luca II, c.1480–1550, Giovanni, c.1469–c.1529, and Girolamo, c.1488–1566, carried on the family tradition into the 16th cent.


See studies by A. Marquand on the Della Robbias (4 vol., 1973).

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Della Robbia


a family of Italian Renaissance sculptors who lived and worked in Florence. They were the first to apply glazes to relief sculpture and sculpture in the round.

Luca della Robbia. Born 1399 or 1400; died Feb. 23, 1482.

Luca, the head of the della Robbia family, received his artistic training in a goldsmith’s workshop and was influenced by Ghiberti. His early works were in bronze and marble—for example, the marble reliefs for the singing gallery of the Florence Cathedral (1431–38). In the 1440’s, Luca produced glazed relief sculptures, distinguished by their clear colors, for the decoration of buildings and altars. Examples of such works are the 13 medallions embellishing the Pazzi Chapel of the church of Santa Croce. Luca’s sculptures are noted for a vital, earthly quality. Most numerous are compositions depicting the Madonna, which are marked by lyricism and spirituality (for example, the lunette of the Palazzo di Parte Guelfa).

Andrea della Robbia. Born 1435; died 1525. Nephew, adopted son, and pupil of Luca della Robbia.

Andrea, who worked exclusively in majolica, expanded the range of the medium, applying it to sculpture in the round and employing more colors. Among his works were medallions representing swaddled infants on the facade of Ospedale degli Innocenti (1463–66) and the group of the Visitation for the church of San Giovanni Fuorcivitas (1491, Pistoia).

Giovanni della Robbia. Born 1469; died after 1529. Son of Andrea della Robbia.

Giovanni, the most gifted of Andrea’s sons, continued the traditions of his father. His works resemble altar paintings owing to their extraordinarily sumptuous polychromy. They are also marked by elements of naturalism.


Marquand, A. Andrea della Robbia and His Atelier, vols. 1–2. Princeton-London, 1922.
Planiscig, L. Luca della Robbia. Florence [1948].
Bravo, C. del. “L’umanésimo di Luca della Robbia.” Paragone, 1973, vol. 285, pages 3–34.
The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
References in periodicals archive ?
'I suppose nothing brings the real air of a Tuscan town so vividly to mind as those pieces of blue and white earthenware,' Walter Pater observed in 1888 when writing about the work of the Della Robbia family.
The Della Robbia Pottery, Birkenhead, 1894-1906, published by the Antique Collectors' Club, is a scholarly work charting what must be one of the shortest-lived ceramics enterprises ever.
I libri della famiglia examines the classical connection between otium and femininity, passivity, and lasciviousness, yet, like the Della Robbia depiction of grammar, it also represents certain forms of leisure as virile because they support the status of the family and the homeland.
Even the exotic rifle conjures up Blanche DuBois' giddy description of her gown's color: "It's Della Robbia blue!" In the end, as Jasmine (Cate Blanchett) babbles away on her park bench, she does evoke our pity if not our terror.
It emphasises the creative initiative of four artists in particular who 'founded' the Florentine artistic project of the first half of the 15th Century: Filippo Brunelleschi, Donatello, Lorenzo Ghiberti, and Luca della Robbia. All of them flourished within the exhibition's chronological boundaries, between the competition for the design of the Florentine Baptistery north doors in 1401 (in which Ghiberti triumphed over Brunelleschi)--each of the competitor's 'Sacrifice of Isaac' for the doors is on display--and the deaths of Cosimo de' Medici the Elder and Donatello in the 1460s.
The same virtuosity and maturity of expression in ceramic work was rediscovered and reinvented in the Renaissance by the Della Robbia, who raised it to new levels of greatness with the addition of coloured glazes.
Altre porte bronzee fiorentine vanno ricordate: quelle della Sagrestia delle Messe in Duomo, opera della meta del Quattrocento, di Luca della Robbia, e le due porte della brunelleschiana Sagrestia Nuova a San Lorenzo, su disegno di Donatello.
Additionally, a frieze surrounding the painting was a reproduction of Luca della Robbia's "Cantoria," and appears to be the only known full reproduction of his 15th century masterpiece.
However, his greatest commission was to create a Christ Child and crib to accompany the kneeling Madonna by the Renaissance sculptor Giovanni Della Robbia in Liverpool Cathedral after the original was destroyed.
Light from windows above her voice made della Robbia's blue
Tra gli altri documenti presentati, la preziosa testimonianza di Luca della Robbia sull'esecuzione di due patrizi fiorentini, Pietro Paolo Boscoli e Agostino Capponi, e, di non minore interesse, un testo in versi del famoso Giulio Cesare Croce, il quale descrive, a modo suo, l'esecuzione a Bologna di vari personaggi tra cui anche un ebreo, Manas.