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Circular relief - The Descent of the Holy Ghost
  • The Descent of the Holy Ghost
    Robbia, Andrea della, born 1435 - died 1525
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The Descent of the Holy Ghost

  • Object:

    Circular relief

  • Place of origin:

    Florence (made)

  • Date:

    ca. 1480-1500 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Robbia, Andrea della, born 1435 - died 1525

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Circular relief in polychrome enamelled terracotta

  • Museum number:

    7413-1860

  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

This circular relief (or tondo) shows six figures in ecclesiastical dress, kneeling in prayer to the Holy Ghost (represented in the form of a dove with rays coming from its breast), which descends towards them. It may represent the members of a lay confraternity dedicated to the Holy Ghost. The flowered border is similar to that on a famous roundel of the Virgin and Child, known as the Foulc Madonna, by Andrea della Robbia (Musée des Beaux Arts, Nîmes), and also to that on the roundel of The Adoration of the Shepherds (Mus.No 7752-1862).

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.
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. He is credited with the invention of the tin-glazed terracotta sculpture for which the family became well known.

His nephew Andrea della Robbia, who inherited the workshop, tended to use more complex compositions and polychrome glazing rather than the simple blue-and-white schemes favoured by his uncle.
Trained as a marble sculptor in the studio of his uncle Luca, Andrea della Robbia also became an excellent modeller, unrivalled in his ability to capture the life of his subjects in glazed clay.

Physical description

The circular relief shows ion the centre the Holy Ghost, in the form of a dove with rays protruding from its breast, is shown descending on six kneeling figures. The figures, all of whom are men and one of whom is bearded, are vested in surplices; in the case of the innermost foreground figure on the left and the two foreground figures on the right a stole is visible on the left shoulder. The dove, flesh parts and surplices are white, and the stoles porphyry. The ground on which the figures kneel is an indeterminate greyish colour, and the background is blue. The relief is framed in a floriated border, consisting of bunches of green leaves and white roses alternately double and single, between egg-and-tongue and leaf mouldings.

Place of Origin

Florence (made)

Date

ca. 1480-1500 (made)

Artist/maker

Robbia, Andrea della, born 1435 - died 1525

Materials and Techniques

Circular relief in polychrome enamelled terracotta

Dimensions

Diameter: 129.5 cm

Descriptive line

Circular relief, tin-glazed terracotta, workshop of Andrea della Robbia, Florence, ca. 1480-1500

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, pp. 80, 81
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, p. 226, 227

Labels and date

This circular relief (or tondo) shows six figures in ecclesiastical dress, kneeling in prayer to the Holy Ghost (represented in the form of a dove with rays coming from its breast), which descends towards them. It may represent the members of a lay confraternity dedicated to the Holy Ghost. The flowered border is similar to that on a famous roundel of the Virgin and Child, known as the Foulc Madonna, by Andrea della Robbia (Musée des Beaux Arts, Nîmes), and also to that on the roundel of The Adoration of the Shepherds (Mus.No 7752-1862). Andrea took over the workshop from his uncle, Luca della Robbia (1399/1400-1482), who had invented the technique of tin-glazing terracotta sculpture. []

Materials

Terracotta

Techniques

Enamelling; Relief

Subjects depicted

Figures; Dove

Categories

Sculpture; Christianity; Earthenware; Ceramics

Collection

Sculpture Collection

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