Della Robbia sculpture exhibition in Washington

National Gallery of Art shows Tuscan art

Helen Farrell
February 7, 2017 - 10:58

The National Gallery of Art in Washington is holding an exhibition, titled “Della Robbia: Sculpting with Color in Renaissance Florence” to celebrate three generations of the Della Robbia family and their contemporaries.


Luca della Robbia (1399/1400-1482) was a master sculptor in marble and bronze who invented a glazing technique for terracotta sculpture that positioned him as one of the most innovative artists of the 15th century. Today, the sculptures created by Luca and his family workshop retain their brilliant opaque whites, deep cerulean blues and botanical greens, purples and yellows over modelling that makes them powerful and engaging examples of Italian Renaissance art. Resistant to weather and easily readable at a distance, Della Robbia works were widely collected in the late 19th and early 20th century by Americans travelling to Italy who sought to bring something of the Renaissance home.


The exhibition, held in the West Garden Court on the main floor of the West Building, shows 40 works by Luca, his nephew Andrea (1435-1525), Andrea’s sons and the competing Buglioni workshop. The sculptures come chiefly from American collections but also include major international loans, among them Luca's masterpiece of sculpture in the round, The Visitation, usually at home in the church of San Giovanni Fuorcivitas in Pistoia. Three sculptures are also on loan from Florence’s oratory of St. Thomas Aquinas and the Bargello Museum. All of these works are on view outside of Italy for the first time.




The Visitation, c. 1445, glazed terracotta, Church of San Giovanni Fuorcivitas, Pistoia



The exhibition was organized by the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, in association with the National Gallery of Art, Washington, with the support of the Italian Embassy in Washington, D.C. The exhibition was made possible by Altria Group on behalf of Ste. Michelle Wine Estates, and by Marchesi Antinori S.p.A. Major support is provided by Sally Engelhard Pingree and The Charles Engelhard Foundation, and the Buffy and William Cafritz Family Foundation. Additional funding is provided by The Exhibition Circle of the National Gallery of Art.


The Marchesi Antinori family supported the conservation of the Resurrection of Christ, enabling the work to be loaned for the first time since it was donated to the Brooklyn Museum in 1898, whereas the non-profit association Friends of Florence supported the conservation of Luca della Robbia’s Madonna with Child, on loan for the first time from the Oratory of St. Thomas Aquinas in Florence.


Admission is always free and passes are not required. The exhibition will run until June 4, 2017.

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