Roundel depicting Julia (?) Augustus & Agrippa thumbnail 1
Image of Gallery in South Kensington
On display at V&A South Kensington
Medieval & Renaissance, Room 50a, The Paul and Jill Ruddock Gallery

Roundel depicting Julia (?) Augustus & Agrippa

Roundel
ca. 1520 - ca. 1525 (made)
Artist/Maker
Place Of Origin

This and three other roundels with classical heads (370,371,372-1864) were stated on acquisition to have come from the Palazzo Guadagni, Florence. It cannot however, be assumed that they were necessarily made for this Palace, which contained a large collection of works of art; however their subject matter suggests that they were intended for a palace or villa. The heads appear to represent Julia, daughter of the Roman emperor Augustus (bottom left) and wife of August's friend and minister, Agrippa (bottom right). They can be compared to a series of busts of saints, prophets and apostles, and other religious figures by Giovanni della Robbia in the Certosa (Charterhouse) di Galuzzo, near Florence (1523), which are set into the spandrels of the cloister arcade. These roundels were probably also designed for a similar setting.

The Della Robbia family was an Italian family of sculptors and potters. They were active in Florence from the early 15th century and elsewhere in Italy and France well into the 16th. Family members were traditionally employed in the textile industry, and their name derives from rubia tinctorum, a red dye. Luca della Robbia founded the family sculpture workshop in Florence and was regarded by contemporaries as a leading artistic innovator, comparable to Donatello and Masaccio. The influence of antique art and his characteristic liveliness and charm are evident in such works as the marble singing-gallery for Florence Cathedral. He is credited with the invention of the tin-glazed terracotta sculpture for which the family became well known. Giovanni della Robbia (1469 - ca. 1529) was one of three of the sons of Andrea della Robbia (1435-1525) to enter his father's workshop. He received his own commissions from 1497 and increasingly took over the running of the workshop.
He was heir to the famous workshop in Florence and had the task of renewing its famous production to accord with changing tastes as directed by contemporary painting.



object details
Categories
Object Type
Materials and Techniques
Polychrome enamelled terracotta with 3 busts in high relief
Brief Description
Roundel, circular relief in polychrome tin-glazed terracotta with three heads, workshop of Giovanni della Robbia, Florence, ca. 1520
Physical Description
A circular relief in polychrome enamelled terracotta. The three heads, in white on porphyry coloured grounds, are contained in circular white frames which protrude from the blue surface of the roundel. The three white frames surrounding each head are separated from each other by sprays of yellow foliage. The roundel is framed in a circular border of fruit and flowers, enamelled in white, yellow, green, blue, purple and brown.
Dimensions
  • Diameter: 114.3cm
  • Depth: 30cm
Measured for the Medieval and Renaissance Galleries
Gallery Label
Roundels with classical heads About 1520–5 These heads of the Roman emperor Augustus, his daughter Julia and the general Agrippa resemble a series of saints produced by the della Robbia workshop. Religious figures often appeared on the outside of houses as an expression of the family’s piety, but personages from antiquity were also used to show an appreciation of classical learning. Workshop of Giovanni della Robbia (1469–1529/30) Italy, Florence Tin-glazed terracotta Museum nos. 369 to 372-1864 (2009)
Historical context
This and the companion reliefs 370, 371 and 372-1864 were stated on acquisition to have come from the Palazzo Guadagni, Florence. It cannot be assumed that they were necessarily made for this palace,which contained a large number of works of art. The Palazzo Guadagni now the Palazzo Dufour Berte is situated on the Piazza Santo Spirito. Though not one of the more well known Florentine Palazzi, it became a model for many other Florentine houses such as Palazzo Ginori and the Palazo Niccolini. The architect who built the palace in about 1505 has not been definitely established though the names of Cronaca and Baccio d'Agnolo have been proposed, with the former considered the more likely. A nineteenth century engraving by Durand portrays the facade of the palace and shows no indication of roundels or evidence of roundels having been present. According to J Shearman's biography of Andrea del Sarto the entire facade was painted by the artist and a photograph of the facade which shows the work purportedly by del Sarto though heavily restored leaves no room for the placement of roundels.

This roundel with the three previously mentioned companions, are ascribed by Cavallucci and Molinier (Les Della Robbia,Paris,1884,p.268,Nos.389-92) to the shop of Giovanni della Robbia. This designation is retained by Maclagan and Longhurst (p.76). All four roundels are ignored by Marquand. They are compared by Maclagan and Longhurst with the busts of Saints by Giovanni della Robbia in the Certosa di Galluzzo, and the date of these busts (1523) affords a general indication of the probable date of the present reliefs. All four roundels apparently represent figures from antiquity, and Pope-Hennessy proposes that five of the six heads derive from classical originals. The frames of 370,371 and 372-1864 appear to have been made from the same mould.

The majority of works produced in the workshop of Giovanni della Robbia concentrate on religious themes, however roundels depicting the cardinal virtues, figures from the classical past and portrait busts were also produced. The bust roundels of the Certosa are set in the spandrels of the arcade which surrounds the large cloister. The present roundel would have originally been located high up on a facade probably one of a series set within spandrels.



The roundel depicts the following figures from antiquity:



Augustus (63BC - 14BC): When Julius Caesar's will was read, following his assasination, Caesar named as his chief heir a virtual unknown by the name of Octavius, adopting him (posthumously) as his son. Octavius was Caesar's grand-nephew on his sister's side. Upon his adoption, Octavius became Julius Caesar Octavianus (or Octavian). Though he had little experience, few political connections, and virtually no personal authority Octavian proved to be a natural born politician. Never an imposing figure physically, he owed his military victories largely to the skill of his able lieutenants but in the political realm he was without peer, rising from a virtual unknown in 44 B.C. to become the first of the Julio-Claudian emperors by 27 B.C. when he took the honorific title Augustus.His reign was to last until his death in A.D. 14, approximately 41 years.



Julia (39 B.C. - A.D. 14) was Augustus' daughter by his first wife, Scribonia. The women of Augustus' family were compelled to live lives of severe simplicity and to model themselves after the women of early Rome, becoming living symbols of Augustus' restoration of the pristine mores of the Early Republic: "The education of his daughter and granddaughters included even spinning and weaving; they were forbidden to say or do anything, either publicly or in private. He took severe measures to prevent them forming friendships without his consent..." (Suetonius: R. Graves tr.). At 14 years of age (in 25 B.C.), Julia was married to Marcellus. The marriage was dynastic in nature, intended to mark Augustus' son-in-law as the heir apparent. After Marcellus' sudden death in 23, Julia was married (in 21 B.C.) to Augustus' leading military advisor, Agrippa (64-12 B.C.), a man older than her father. On Agrippa's death in 12 B.C. Julia was again married off, this time to the future emperor Tiberius (in 11 B.C.) who was compelled to divorce his wife Vipsania Agrippina (Agrippa's daughter by an earlier wife). The marriage of Julia and Tiberius, was not a happy one and Julia began to take part in a series of ever more scandalous affairs possibly involving the poet Ovid. Her profligate lifestyle eventually became an embarrassment to the Augustan regime. In 2 B.C. she was banished to a small island near Naples where she was put under house arrest, with severe restrictions regarding her visitors, her diet, and her daily pastimes. In A.D. 14 she died of malnutrition, virtually starved to death.



Marcus Vipsanius Agrippa (63(?)BC - 12BC) : Roman general and admiral. He was instrumental in the successful campaigns and rise to power of the emperor Augustus. He commanded the victorious fleet at the Battle of Actium and married Augustus' daughter Julia. Agrippa used his great wealth to the advantage of the Roman people and Augustus's regime; he built the Pantheon, a new bridge over the Tiber, and the first public baths. He also rebuilt the sewers, and greatly improved the water supply of Rome with aqueducts and a new distribution network. The heads of Agrippa and Augustus appear together on roman coins, an example of which resides in the British Museum.

In 9 BC, the Ara Pacis was built to commemorate the great peace after the Gallic and Spanish campaigns. The Ara consists of a rectangular enclosure inside which is an altar. The most significant scene in the mostly restored bas-relief is one depicting Augustus, Agrippa, Julius, and Tiberius and a strikingly similarity between the portrait of Agrippa on the Ara and that on the roundel has been noted.
Subjects depicted
Summary
This and three other roundels with classical heads (370,371,372-1864) were stated on acquisition to have come from the Palazzo Guadagni, Florence. It cannot however, be assumed that they were necessarily made for this Palace, which contained a large collection of works of art; however their subject matter suggests that they were intended for a palace or villa. The heads appear to represent Julia, daughter of the Roman emperor Augustus (bottom left) and wife of August's friend and minister, Agrippa (bottom right). They can be compared to a series of busts of saints, prophets and apostles, and other religious figures by Giovanni della Robbia in the Certosa (Charterhouse) di Galuzzo, near Florence (1523), which are set into the spandrels of the cloister arcade. These roundels were probably also designed for a similar setting.



The Della Robbia family was an Italian family of sculptors and potters. They were active in Florence from the early 15th century and elsewhere in Italy and France well into the 16th. Family members were traditionally employed in the textile industry, and their name derives from rubia tinctorum, a red dye. Luca della Robbia founded the family sculpture workshop in Florence and was regarded by contemporaries as a leading artistic innovator, comparable to Donatello and Masaccio. The influence of antique art and his characteristic liveliness and charm are evident in such works as the marble singing-gallery for Florence Cathedral. He is credited with the invention of the tin-glazed terracotta sculpture for which the family became well known. Giovanni della Robbia (1469 - ca. 1529) was one of three of the sons of Andrea della Robbia (1435-1525) to enter his father's workshop. He received his own commissions from 1497 and increasingly took over the running of the workshop.

He was heir to the famous workshop in Florence and had the task of renewing its famous production to accord with changing tastes as directed by contemporary painting.



Associated Objects
Bibliographic References
  • Pope-Hennessy, J., assisted by Lightbrown, R., Catalogue of Italian Sculpture in the Victoria and Albert Museum, (HMSO, London, 1964), p.235, cat no. 238
  • Maclagan, E. and Longhurst, M., Catalogue of Italian Sculpture, (London, 1932), p. 76
  • Marquand, A., Giovanni della Robbia, (Princeton University Press, 1920), p.167, cat no. 172
  • Inventory of Art Objects Acquired in the Year 1864, 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. 27
Collection
Accession Number
369-1864

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record createdFebruary 20, 2006
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