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Tabernacle section

Tabernacle section

  • Place of origin:

    Florence (made)

  • Date:

    ca. 1500 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    della Robbia (maker)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Relief in polychrome, enamelled terracotta

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

This piece comes from a tabernacle, where the communion vessels were stored in a church. The clay was shaped in a mould and fired, then painted with different coloured glazes and fired again. The rough underside of the section is hollow to prevent it cracking during the firing. A wire loop was used to remove excess clay, leaving the smooth, broad grooves that you can feel inside. The motifs used in the decoration all have symbolic meanings. From left to right there are cucumbers (resurrection), a grape (resurrection), lemons (salvation), pine cones (virtue and immortality) and quinces (immortal virtue).

Physical description

The tabernacle proper is flanked by white and blue pilasters, with, above, a frieze of cherub heads between heavy mouldings. At each side of the central aperture is a small angel drawing a curtain, and above is a scalloped lunette with the Holy Ghost. At either side, from the ends of the cornice, are suspended heavy swags of flowers and fruit. Below the tabernacle, on each side of a circular opening, are the words: HIC.EST./PANISVIVVS/Q.DECELO/DESCENDIT., and at the base is a console formed by cornucopias filled with fruit, with, between them, a wreath surrounding an empty space for a shield.. In the lunette of the tabernacle is the Child Christ standing on a chalice with his right hand raised in blessing between two cherub heads. Enamelled in white, yellow, green, blue, porphyry, brown and black. The surfaces of the two lunettes and of the frieze with putto heads are blue, and in the haloes and the outlining of the central area yellow is extensively employed.

Place of Origin

Florence (made)


ca. 1500 (made)


della Robbia (maker)

Materials and Techniques

Relief in polychrome, enamelled terracotta

Marks and inscriptions

Below the tabernacle, on each side of a circular opening, are these words


Height: 130.8 cm, Width: 63.8 cm

Object history note

Purchased in Florence

Descriptive line

Section of a tabernacle, probably from the workshop of the della Robbia family, Italy (Florence), ca. 1500

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

Inventory of Art Objects Acquired in the Year 1860. In: Inventory of the Objects in the Art Division of the Museum at South Kensington, Arranged According to the Dates of their Acquisition. Vol I. London: Printed by George E. Eyre and William Spottiswoode for H.M.S.O., 1868, p. 12
Maclagan, Eric and Longhurst, Margaret H. Catalogue of Italian Sculpture. Text. London: Victoria and Albert Museum, 1932, p. 86
Pope-Hennessy, John. Catalogue of Italian Sculpture in the Victoria and Albert Museum. Volume I: Text. Eighth to Fifteenth Century. London: Her Majesty's Stationery Office, 1964, pp. 240,41




Enamelling; Relief

Subjects depicted

Garland; Dove; Flowers; Chalice; Curtain; Fruit; Christianity; Pilaster; Cherub-head; Angels


Sculpture; Christianity; Religion; Earthenware


Sculpture Collection

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