Luca Della Robbia - Works In England
( Originally Published 1908 )
SOUTH KENSINGTON MUSEUM
No. 438.—Bas-relief, " Adoration of the Magi," formerly a portion of a predella. It has every characteristic of Luca's hand. It came from the Soulanges Collection. The figures are white on a blue ground.
No. 4111.-The Virgin seated on the ground with the Infant Saviour on her lap. Apparently a work of Luca. The relief is remarkably low.
No. 4112.-Altar-piece, probably partly by Luca. His style is especially visible in the two flying angels in the upper part.
No. 5401.—Medallion representing the " Nativity." It was acquired by the Museum in 1862, and came from the Mozzi Palace. This medallion, according to Professor Allan Marquand, is somewhat puzzling. " The frame-work with its conventional bunches of triangular flowers is suggestive of the work of Andrea, but the central composition is in the style of the elder master, and, as we believe, is to be studied with his early works." Dr. Bode is strongly inclined also to the attribution of this bas-relief to Luca ; while M. Marcel Reymond decidedly rejects it and mentions the name of Andrea and even Giovanni.
According to Sir J. Charles Robinson, " there can be little doubt that the original model was from the hand of Luca himself, to whom it was indeed attributed by Cicognara." The under portions of the figures are left unglazed, whilst the remainder of the work is enamelled.
No. 5788.-This group is set in a niche. It represents the Virgin standing up in full figure, with the Infant Saviour asleep in her arms. Dr. Bode finds the position of the Child very similar to one of inferior size in the Museum attributed to Jacopo della Quercia.
No. 7609.-Sketch in clay or stucco for a portion of the relief, executed in marble, for the " Cantoria " of the Florence Cathedral. It represents the panel of the trumpeters, and seems to have been executed prior to the marble. This sketch came from the Rinuccini Palace, and was purchased by. Signor Gigli.
No. 7610.-Represents a monk writing at a desk. It came from the Gigli-Campana collection. Sir Charles Robinson and Cavallucci and Molinier consider that " the great resemblance of this life-like and beautiful figure to those of the seated saints and doctors of the Church, in the bronze doors of the sacristy of the Duomo, renders it very probable that it is actually from the hand of Luca. The work was originally carefully finished, or wrought over in every part with the tool after it had been fired, and it is worthy of remark that this method of finishing was applied to all the more important works in terra-cotta, of both Luca and Andrea, to which the enamelled glaze was after-wards applied." (" Italian Sculpture in the South Keningston Museum," by Sir J. C. Robinson.)
No. 6740.-A medallion representing the arms of King René d'Anjou, which consist of a very elaborate blazon, on each side of which is a brazier vomiting flames. Beneath the shield is a large scroll bearing the motto, " Dardant désir." In the upper part, above the crest, are the initials " I. R.," which surely are meant for the names " Isabella " and " René." Signor Passerini informed Sir Charles Robinson that this medallion was taken from a villa at Fiesole, but it was bought from the Villa Panciatichi Ximenés, near Florence. Cavallucci and Molinier, and Sir J. Charles Robinson, in his book, " Italian Sculpture in the South Kensington Museum," give long and interesting details of the historical origin of this medallion, which is one of the largest wrought by Luca della Robbia. Cavallucci and Molinier assign to it the date 1453. M. Marcel Reymond has placed it between 1460-1470.
No. 7630.-A full-length group of Virgin and Child, in many particulars betokening Luca's style, but generally assigned to Andrea. The frame of fruit must certainly be his work, and we may venture to ascribe the rest to one of his scholars. It came from the Campana collection.
No. 7447.—Madonna and Child within a shrine, en-wreathed with fruit and flowers. This was found over a doorway in Florence. We may trace in it characteristics of Luca's influence.
No. 7632 — 7643.-Twelve circular medallions in enamelled terra-cotta painted in chiaroscuro.
Vasari writes : " One of the principal works of Luca was the decoration, in enamelled terra-cotta, of a writing cabinet for Piero di Cosimo Medici, who commissioned him to decorate a small study, built by his father Cosimo, in his palace, with figures in coloured terra-cotta. The ceiling of the study is a half circle, and here, as well as for the pavement, Luca executed various devices, which was a singular and, for summer time, very convenient mode of decorating a pavement ; and it is certainly much to be admired that, although this work was then extremely difficult, numberless precautions and great knowledge being required in the burning of the clay, yet Luca completed the whole with such success that the ornaments of both the ceiling and pavement appear to be made, not of many pieces, but of one only." In the " Trattato d'Architettura" of Filarete we find the following passage on the same subject : "Cosimo's little study, excessively small as it is, has the ceiling and pavement adorned with most beautiful glazed figures, so that all who enter are struck with admiration."
In all probability we are in the presence of the medallions which formed part of this " study " mentioned by Vasari and Filarete, though some critics think that they differ so widely in every point from Luca's works, that they cannot even be attributed to those of his nephews and scholars. M. Marcel Reymond believes them to be the production of an Italian artist of the fifteenth century. The subjects of these medallions consist of single figures of countrymen, representing the rural operations of the Florentine province in each month of the year.
These twelve medallions came from the Campana collection, and for some time decorated a fountain in the neighbourhood of Florence, in a villa of the Riccardi family, after they had been removed from the Medici Palace.
No. 7417 to 7420.-Four pieces of a semi-circular architrave with cherub heads. They were probably over a large altar-piece. The ground of the band is white enamel. The heads are glazed, but the wings of the cherubs are in coloured enamels.
The attribution is contested ; some ascribe them to Luca, others to Andrea.
No. 2555.-Medallion representing the head of Caesar in enamelled terra-cotta ; white on a blue ground.
No decided authorship can be given to this work, which may be either Luca's or Andrea's.
No. 7596.-Reliefs in enamelled terra-cotta, representing the "Adoring Madonna"; in the upper part God the Father surrounded by angels. This relief has been constantly reproduced, being a very popular subject. It has been considered as the work of Luca, or else one of Andrea's best specimens. It came from the convent of Santa Agata in Florence, and was bought by Signor Gigli.
No. 4032.-Is a duplicate of the preceding relief.
The Oxford medallion was presented by Mr. Drury Fortnum, who purchased it of the late Mr. James Jackson Jarves of Florence. It was catalogued by Mr. Fortnum as a Luca della Robbia, and noted as such by Dr. Bode.
It represents the Holy Virgin seated with the Infant Saviour in her lap between two adoring angels. On the reverse side are inscribed the words : "formatto adj 17 di Geinraio, 1428." This band encloses a crown, in which is the end of the sentence, "forma . . . né gabinetto di Nicholo in gesso." Dr. Bode attributes the authorship of this Madonna to Luca, finding in i characteristics in common with the Madonna of Via dell' Agnolo. M. Marcel Reymond decidedly reject: this attribution, seeing in it no analogy with any or Luca's productions. Professor Allan Marquand finds it a work carried out in Ghiberti's methods. It is not mentioned by any early historian or critic. Except for the date and inscription, we have no clue to its author or origin.
Sir J. Charles Robinson possesses an example of the Madonna and Child with six angels, similar to the one in the Louvre in Paris.
Lady Eastlake has another example of the same subject.