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The Adoration of the Magi

  • Object:

    Altarpiece

  • Place of origin:

    Italy (made)

  • Date:

    16th century (made)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Enamelled terracotta

  • Museum number:

    4412-1857

  • Gallery location:

    Medieval & Renaissance, Room 50b, The Paul and Jill Ruddock Gallery, case WS, shelf EXP

This altarpiece is by Andrea Della Robbia, made in Florence in the early 16th century.

The composition is related to that of a number of Umbrian paintings of the Adoration of the Magi, of which the most important is an altarpiece by Perugino in the Pinacoteca Nazionale at Perugia (about 1475). The arms are those of Albizzi, and the altarpiece may have been commissioned for S Michele or S Andrea at Rovezzano, both of which were under Albizzi patronage at the end of the 15th century.

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.
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.

Physical description

Enamelled terra cotta, Della Robbia ware, in high relief and in various colours. The Virgin seated to the right, the Child standing on her knee, and St; Joseph behind her, in front of a shed with the ox and ass; the oldest of the three Magi kneeling, behind him the other two Magi with their gifts and nine other standing figures including a negro and a satyr. Landscape background, with riders; above in the sky are two angels carrying the star. The frame has two flat white pilasters with symmetrical patterns in low relief; the polychrome frieze and base are decorated respectively with cherub' heads and garlands, and garlands between two shields bearing the arms of Albizzi.

Place of Origin

Italy (made)

Date

16th century (made)

Materials and Techniques

Enamelled terracotta

Dimensions

Height: 221.7 cm, Width: 184 cm, Depth: 28.3 cm, Weight: 582 kg, Weight: 422 kg central panel

Object history note

Aquired in Paris.
The composition is related to that of a number of Umbrian paintings of the Adoration of the Magi, of which the most important is an altarpiece by Perugino in the Pinacoteca Nazionale at Perugia (about 1475). The arms are those of Albizzi, and the altarpiece may have been commissioned for S Michele or S Andrea at Rovezzano, both of which were under Albizzi patronage at the end of the 15th century.

Descriptive line

Altarpiece, The Adoration of the Magi, by Andrea della Robbia, Florentine, early 16th century.

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

Inventory of Art Objects Acquired in the Year 1857. 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. 13.
Maclagan, Eric and Longhurst, Margaret H. Catalogue of Italian Sculpture. Text. London: Victoria and Albert Museum, 1932, pp. 73, 74.
Andrea de Marchi. In: Giancarlo, Gentilini, ed. I Della Robbia e l'arte nuova della scultura invetriataPope-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.
Giancarlo, Gentilini. I Della Robbia, La Scultura invetriata nel Rinascimento. Florence: 1992, illus. p. 241, p. 257
Williamson, Paul (ed), European Sculpture at the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, Victoria & Albert Museum, 1996, p. 85.

Materials

Terracotta

Techniques

Enamelling

Subjects depicted

Figures; Garlands; Ox; Ass (animal); Shield; Angels

Categories

Christianity; Religion; Sculpture; Black History

Collection

Sculpture Collection

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