Della Robbia dĕl˝ə rŏb´ēə, Ital. dĕl´lä rôb´byä [key], 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).
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