Virgin and Child
Luca Della Robbia
Florence, 1400 - Florence, 1482
Around 1460, white enamelled earthenware, 44 x 29 cm
Italian Museum – Sculpture Gallery
Luca della Robbia, a Florentine sculptor from the first half of the 15th century, was one of Donatello’s great rivals. Initially, he hewed from stone and worked with cast iron. But, interested by the multi-colour effect of the material, he turned quite early on to faience, which he used to play with the reflection of the varnish and the variety of colours. He turned this into his specialty and created sculptures in terracotta in haut-relief which were then plunged into a tin glaze before being fired. The cooked tin gave them a beautiful white colour, while the other pigments – green, yellow and blue – comprise his intentionally limited palette. This material enabled him to create religious art that was likeable, popular and far from the concerns of the intelligentsia. The success encountered by Luca della Robbia enabled him to create a workshop taking several orders, and which remained active for several generations.
The Virgin and the child is in enamelled white terracotta. The eyes of the Virgin are blue, and her eyelashes purple. Her expression is soft and pensive. She and the child Jesus fit harmoniously in with their frame.
The Jacquemart-André museum possesses several works attributed to different members of the workshop, but the Virgin and the child remains without doubt the masterpiece.