Any Della Robbia’s in Your Neighborhood?

Standard

The other day at a consignment shop, I found a ceramic wall statue with a white face and brightly colored fruits surrounding the head.  It reminded me of a Della Robbia-type of ceramic.

In reality, Della Robbia really only made religious plaques…but the brightly colored flowers is what reminded me of the style.  And this led to my investigation into the ceramics called Della Robbia’s.  Lo and behold, so many examples of Della Robbia’s started popping up all over the place.  Walking around Los Gatos, near St. Mary’s Catholic Church, I saw a wall plaque.  On the side wall of St. Nicholas Church in Los Altos was another one.  At the convent at Dominican College in San Rafael – yet another!  It’s amazing how you begin to notice art when you are conscious of it.  I have walked by those plaques in Los Gatos and Los Altos millions of times and never paid any attention to them.   Last weekend, while visiting the Victorian Avant Garde exhibit at the Palace of the Legion of Honor in San Francisco, I came face to face with one as I was walking through the museum to get to the exhibit.  This was an original one by the famed Andrea Della Robbia!

In my own  collection, I have two Della Robbia’s.

This one is for sale in my shop here.

The other one is a family heirloom which holds meaning for me.  It belonged to my husband’s grandmother and graced her walls for many years.  It is very old and I’m lucky to have it as a treasured possession.

In the tiny, unassuming town of Radicofani, Tuscany, can be found four Della Robbia masterpieces in their church.

The locals believe that Andrea Della Robbia hid his formula of glazing terra cotta in one of their statues.  They have even gone to the extreme of xraying the statues, but to no avail.  Since the only way to see if the document spelling out the secret formula lies within in one of the pieces would require breaking it, they have decided to leave it hidden for now!  The technique seems to have been carried down through the ages just fine.

Andrea Della Robbia was one of the most important ceramic artists of Renaissance Florence.  He learned the technique of glazing terra cotta from his uncle, Luca Della Robbia, and perfected the technique in his own studio.  This technique gained a lot of popularity because his altar pieces could be made more colorful and at a lesser expense than marble altarpieces – and they were MUCH lighter to transport.  His statues and plaques have the distinctive blue background with the white reliefs of Jesus, Mary, Joseph and the Saints.  At times, the plaques are surround by colorful fruits and flowers. Today, several ceramic studios in Italy make these beautiful plaques.

6 responses »

  1. These remind me very much of what I also saw in the Alentejo region of Portugal. Thanks for the beautiful pictures!!

  2. Wow – how great to find this post from you. I’m a real estate agent in Southern California and a listing I have coming up has a few of these on it’s exterior walls. The home was built in 1923 and the most obvious one is near the entrance and looks like the one that’s an heirloom of your husband’s except it is surrounded by fruit and flowers.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s