The glazed terra-cotta technique invented by Luca della Robbia, along with his exceptional skill as a sculptor, placed him firmly in the first rank of Renaissance artists in the fifteenth century. The Della Robbia studio produced dazzling multicolored ornaments for major Florentine buildings, delicately modeled and ingeniously constructed freestanding statues, serene blue-and-white devotional reliefs for domestic use, charming portraits of children and commanding busts of rulers, along with decorative and liturgical objects. Important patrons from the Medici family to the French court enhanced the reputation of the Della Robbia style and technique, which in turn inspired imitation by rival artists.
In recent years, renewed attention from art historians, backed by sophisticated technical studies, has reintegrated Della Robbia into the mainstream of Renaissance art history and illuminated the originality and accomplishments of the family’s studio, which operated into the 16th century. This beautifully illustrated companion to the first major Della Robbia exhibition in the United States brings readers into the workshops of these ingenious artists to experience one of the great inventions of the Renaissance.
Luca della Robbia’s (1400–82) invention of an innovative technique for creating glazed terra-cotta sculptures was a major scientific and artistic discovery of the Italian Renaissance. Passed down to family members and developed further by each generation, the closely held technique achieved new heights of refinement and durability in modeling and color, and was praised for combining elements of painting and sculpture into a new and (in Vasari’s words) “almost eternal” medium.