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Group - The dead Christ with the Virgin, St John and St Mary Magdalene; a Pieta.
  • The dead Christ with the Virgin, St John and St Mary Magdalene
    Robbia, Andrea della, born 1435 - died 1525
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The dead Christ with the Virgin, St John and St Mary Magdalene; a Pieta.

  • Object:


  • Place of origin:

    Florence (made)

  • Date:

    ca. 1510-1515 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Robbia, Andrea della, born 1435 - died 1525

  • Materials and Techniques:


  • Museum number:

    409 to :5-1889

  • Gallery location:

    Sculpture 1300-1600, Room 26, case FS []

The figure of the Dead Christ is supported by the Virgin and St John the Evangelist, with St mary Magdalen. The group was made in five pieces. The figure of Christ, with the hands of St John and the Virgin attached was cut in two to fit into the kiln for firing. The Magdalen was broken during the original firing, probably due to air being trapped in the clay which expanded when heated. This prevented a second firing for the tin-glazing and the figure was therefore painted instead. On acquisition the group was stated to have been 'formerly in a private chapel in Siena.'

Physical description

Group in terracotta, partly covered with polychrome enamelling and partly pigmented. The group is made of five separate pieces , which fit imperfectly at the base. The legs of Christ and the figures of the Magdalen and the Virgin have been broken and repaired. In the centre foreground is the semi-recumbent figure of the Dead Christ, supported by the Virgin, who kneels behind, supporting his head with her right hand and holding his arm with her left. To the right kneels St Mary Magdalen, with her right hand on her breast and a jar of unguent in her left. To the left is St John the Evangelist, with the head turned to the spectator, supporting the right shoulder of Christ. The whole group rests on a shallow base enamelled in dull green. The flesh areas are pigmented throughout, as is the whole surface of the Magdalen, the red cloak of St John the Evangelist, and the red dress of the Virgin. Enamelled areas comprise the loin-cloth of Christ (white), the cloak of the Virgin (blue with a green lining tied by a yellow strap), her belt (yellow), her coif (white), the robe of St John the Evangelist (blue), and the lining of his cloak (yellow).

Place of Origin

Florence (made)


ca. 1510-1515 (made)


Robbia, Andrea della, born 1435 - died 1525

Materials and Techniques



Depth: 67 cm, Width: 152 cm, Height: 87 cm

Object history note

Purchased in Siena for £474. 13s 9d. .

Historical context note

Stated to have been "formerly in a private chapel in Siena.

Descriptive line

Group, terracotta, lamentation over the dead christ.

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

List of Objects in the Art Division South Kensington Museum acquired during the Year 1889. Arranged according to the dates of acquisition, with appendix and indices. London: Eyre and Spottiswoode, 1890. pp. 42
Maclagan, E, and Longhurst, Margaret, H. Catalogue of Italian Sculpture. London: V&A, 1932. pp.83
Bruno Smith in Gentilini, Giancarlo ed. I Della Robbia e l'arte nuova della scultora invetriata Fiesole. Basicilica di Sant'Alessandro. 1998. pp. 91.
Pope-Hennessey, John, assisted by Ronald Lightbown. Catalogue of Italian Sculpture in the Victoria and Albert Museum. London: Her Majesty's Stationery Office, 1964. pp.254-5
Wendy Fisher in Trusted, Marjorie. ed. The Making of Sculpture. The materials and techniques of European Sculpture. London. 2007. p. 41. pl. 63-6
Hubbard, Charlotte and Motture, Peta, 'The Making of Terracotta Sculpture: Techniques and Observations' in Boucher, Bruce. ed. Earth and Fire. Italian Terracotta Sculpture from Donatello to Canova. (exh. cat. Museum of Fine Arts, Houston and V&A, London). New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2001, pp.91-93, figs. 105-107.

Labels and date

The Lamentation over the Dead Christ
About 1510–15
Workshop of Andrea della Robbia
Large-scale groups in various materials were used as focal
points for devotion in chapels and churches throughout
Europe. Terracotta was particularly popular in Tuscany
and around Bologna.
Terracotta groups on this scale were difficult to make.
The figures here were each constructed separately.
Mary Magdalene, on the right, is now in several pieces
and probably shattered during the first (or biscuit) firing.
This prevented a second firing to secure the glazes, so
instead the figure was painted.
Italy, Florence
Glazed and painted terracotta
Museum no. 409-1889 [26/11/2010]


Terracotta; Enamel


Enamelled; Pigmenting




Sculpture Collection

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