Luca Della Robbia – Works In The National Museum, Florence

(The numbers refer to the last catalogue of the National Museum, 1898)

THE bas-relief, No. 10, can, without doubt, be ascribed to Luca della Robbia. The Holy Virgin is represented holding her left hand on the head of the Infant Saviour, who is attired in a very short tunic. The figure of the Madonna has slightly deteriorated, but the hands and other details are very beautiful. In composition and expression it reveals Luca’s religious nature. This relief was formerly in the Convent of S. Lucia, and was afterwards removed to the Accademia delle Belle Arti in Florence. It can be placed among the late productions of Luca, and we may venture to say that it must have been executed from 1450 to 1460.

An enormous garland, No. 20, is reckoned to be a work of Luca. It encircles the arms of the Rucellai family. This garland was presented to the Museum by the Signora Corsi Insom. Owing to its enormous proportions, it was not possible to find a Robbia to put in the centre, so the arms of the Rucellai family—a work in stone of the fourteenth century—was adapted. It is sufficiently in harmony with the enamel.

The bas-relief, No. 21, represents the Virgin adoring the Infant Saviour. In the upper part are three singing angels holding a scroll with the words : ” Gloria in Excelsis Deo.” Higher up is the symbol of the Holy Ghost. The figures are white on a blue ground, with only a touch of green where the Infant is lying.

No. 27 is the Virgin with the Infant Jesus, as if coming out of the clouds. Behind are two angels in adoration. The whole is enwreathed in a garland of fruit. After examining the details we are led to suppose that Luca did not execute it entirely himself, and that inferior hands had their share in the work.

No. 28 is a rectangular relief of the Madonna and Child. It has been called the ” Madonna of the Quince,” or apple, owing to the fruit held in the Infant Saviour’s hands. This lovely production of Luca, of the authenticity of which there is no doubt, was brought to public notice by Signor Umberto Rossi, in one of his publications in the ” Archivio Storico, dell’ Arte.” He thinks it was one of the rare objects of art which escaped the dispersion of the treasures of the Medici. Since the sixteenth century it has been in the possession of the Grand Dukes of Tuscany. The attitude of the Virgin has much in common with that of the Madonnas of the frieze in the chapel at Impruneta.

“Madonna of S. Piero Buon Consiglio” (No. 29). See page 40.

In “Madonna of the Roses” (No. 31), the Holy Virgin is sitting on a bench with the Infant Saviour on her knees. With one hand He is holding an apple, and with the other He is gathering roses. In this work of Luca, his genius makes itself felt with great perfection in the ideal beauty of the Madonna. The flowers surrounding the group have given it the name, ” The Madonna of the Roses.” According to Allan Mar quand, it ” bears a strong resemblance to the Madonna of the sacristy doors in the Cathedral of Florence The two reliefs are undoubtedly closely related, foi though of different proportions, adapted to a panel of different shape, this Madonna is similarly draped, is seated upon a similar bench, and the Child has very nearly the same attitude. Luca’s fine colour-sense is shown in the charming greyish-blue of the background, which composes well with the green rose leaves, the violet bench, and the greyish – green of the sloping base.”

No. 48 is the ” Holy Virgin adoring the Infant Saviour.” Two angels are holding a crown over their heads. The angels and the garland round the bas-relief are thought not to be by Luca. It came from the suppressed convent of the Capuchins, 1867.

For Nos. 201, 219, see page 18.

No. 222 is an alto – relief in marble representing the “Coronation of Charlemagne.” It was found in making excavations in a garden outside the Porta Romana. It is supposed to have been made for the façade of the Cathedral of Florence, and when this was demolished in 1586 it must have been taken with other marble monuments to Poggio Imperiale, for many fragments of statues and reliefs have been found from time to time in that locality. Removed thence to a property belonging to the Normal Schools, it was taken to the National Museum in 1870.

Dr. Scharsow, in January 1887, gave a most interesting lecture on the subject of this alto-relief. He justly finds it so similar to the tomb of Bishop Federighi in Santa Trinità, to the unfinished altars of S. Peter in the National Museum, and to the decoration of the tower of the Cathedral, that he thinks there is every reason to ascribe it to Luca. It possesses all the characteristics of this great artist, but being in such a damaged condition, it is not possible to give even an approximate date to it.