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Overview

Andrea della Robbia carried on the popular and lucrative production of terra-cotta sculpture covered with enamel glaze, a technique developed in the 1430s and 1440s by his uncle Luca. The glazed coating gave the colors of della Robbia's works a degree of durability impossible for sculpture that was simply painted. Their white-glazed figures, set off against deep blue grounds and sometimes surrounded by multicolored garlands of fruit or flowers (as in Andrea's Adoration of the Child), were in demand as devotional images for churches, homes, and outdoor shrines.

The half-length treatment of the Virgin brings us close to the figures, whose attitudes combine tenderness and solemnity. The Virgin holds the Child gently, her forehead grazing his hair. The child rests his left arm against her chest and clutches her left hand, as he clings to a corner of her veil. Yet for all their physical closeness, they do not look at each other, and their expressions are grave. The Virgin's downcast gaze suggests meditation on the child's fate. The child turns his face toward the world, but his eyes, with pupils drifting upward, also suggest contemplation. Their thoughts seem to converge on the same sorrowful theme: the coming Passion and death of Christ.

Provenance

Possibly sold by (M. Guggenheim, Venice) to de Nolivos, Paris;[1] probably (de Nolivos sale, Paris, 19-20 January 1866); Gustave Dreyfus [1837-1914], Paris; his estate; purchased 1930 with the entire Dreyfus collection by (Duveen Brothers, Inc., London, Paris, and New York);[2] purchased 15 December 1936 by The A.W. Mellon Educational and Charitable Trust, Pittsburgh;[3] gift 1937 to NGA.

Bibliography
1883
Perkins, Charles. Historical Handbook of Italian Sculpture. London, 1883: 402.
1884
Cavallucci, J. C. and Émile Molinier. Les Della Robbia, leur vie et leur oeuvre. Paris, 1884: 282, as atelier of Luca.
1900
Burlamacchi, L. Luca della Robbia. London, 1900 (reprinted 1908): 86, as Luca.
1904
Cruttwell, Maud. Luca and Andrea della Robbia. London, 1904: 351, as della Robbia atelier.
1907
Vitry, Paul. "La collection de M. Gustave Dreyfus: I. - La Sculpture." Les Arts 72 (December 1907): repro. 11.
1912
Marquand, Allan. Della Robbias in America. Princeton, 1912: 45.
1913
De Ricci, Seymour. In Jean-Louis Ganay. Exposition d’objets d’art du moyen age et de la renaissance tirés des collections particulières de la France et de l'étranger organisée par la Marquise de Ganay à l’ancien Hôtel de Sagan (Mai-Juin 1913). Paris, n.d.: plate X text.
1922
Marquand, Allan. Andrea della Robbia and his atelier. 2 vols. Princeton, 1922: 1: 71-74; 2:55, no. 153.
1930
Dreyfus Collection. Certain of the Sculptures from the collection of M. Gustave Dreyfus, Paris, which was acquired in its Entirety from the Executors of his Estate in MDCCCCXXX by Sir Joseph Duveen, Bart. [with photos by Clarence Kennedy]. Florence, 1930: repro. XXXIII [issued in variant editions, not all plates numbered the same in each].
1931
“Einige weitere Abbildungen aus der Sammlung Gustave Dreyfus.” Pantheon 7 (March 1931): repro. 119, as Luca.
1932
Rowlandson, Benjamin, Jr. "The Dreyfus Collection. A Review of the Exhibition." Bulletin of the Fogg Art Museum 1 (March 1932): 54-56.
1937
Cortissoz, Royal. An Introduction to the Mellon Collection. Boston, 1937: 29.
1941
Frankfurter, Alfred M. “Great Sculpture of the Italian Renaissance in the National Gallery.” Art News 40 n. 9 (July 1-31, 1941): 8-12, 28, repro. 11, as Luca.
1941
Preliminary Catalogue of Paintings and Sculpture. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1941: 232, no. A-11, as by Andrea della Robbia Atelier.
1942
Book of Illustrations. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1942: 253, repro. 234, as by Andrea della Robbia Atlier.
1944
Duveen Brothers, Inc. Duveen Sculpture in Public Collections of America: A Catalog Raisonné with illustrations of Italian Renaissance Sculptures by the Great Masters which have passed through the House of Duveen. New York, 1944: figs. 36-38, as by Luca della Robbia.
1949
Paintings and Sculpture from the Mellon Collection. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1949 (reprinted 1953 and 1958): 164, repro., as by Atelier of Andrea della Robbia.
1964
Pope-Hennessy, John, assisted by Ronald Lightbown. Catalogue of Italian Sculpture in the Victoria and Albert Museum. 3 vols. London, 1964: 1:214-215.
1965
Summary Catalogue of European Paintings and Sculpture. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1965: 166, as by Studio of Andrea della Robbia.
1968
European Paintings and Sculpture, Illustrations. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1968: 146, repro., as by Studio of Andrea della Robbia.
1988
Kecks, Ronald G. Madonna und Kind. Das häusliche Andachtsbild im Florenz des 15. Jahrhunderts. Berlin, 1988: 138, repro. fig. 74a.
1992
Gentilini, Giancarlo. I Della Robbia. La scultura invetriata nel Rinascimento. Florence, 1992: 1:221, 270 n. 29.
1992
National Gallery of Art. National Gallery of Art, Washington. New York, 1992: 289, repro.
1994
Sculpture: An Illustrated Catalogue. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1994: 196, repro.
1998
Gentilini, Giancarlo, ed. I Della Robbia e l’arte nuova della scultura invetriata. Exh. cat. Fiesole, Basilica di Sant’Alessandro, 29 May – 1 November 1998. Florence, 1998: 105 repro., 194.
2000
Olson, Roberta J. M. The Florentine Tondo. Oxford, 2000: 144 repro., 149.
2002
Olson, Roberta J. M. and Daphne S. Barbour. “Toward a new method for studying glazed terracottas. Examining a group of tondi by Andrea della Robbia.” Apollo 154, no. 475 (September 2001): 44-52, 48, 50, repro. fig. 3, nn. 35, 37, 52.
2011
Barbour, Daphne and Robert J. M. Olson. "New methods for studying serialization in the workshop of Andrea della Robbia: technical study and analysis." In Anne Bouquillon, Marc Bormand and Alessandro Zucchiatti, eds. Della Robbia: dieci anni di studi—dix ans d’études. Proceedings of a round table of studies on the Della Robbia family held in Paris, Dec. 2009. Genoa, 2011: 56-61, repro.