Della Robbia

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Della Robbia

(dĕl'ə rŏb`ēə, Ital. dĕl`lä rôb`byä), 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).

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.