Virgin and Child thumbnail 1
Image of Gallery in South Kensington
On display at V&A South Kensington
Medieval & Renaissance, Room 64a, The Robert H. Smith Gallery

Virgin and Child

Relief
ca. 1475-1500 (made)
Artist/Maker
Place Of Origin

This relief belongs to a large group of Madonna reliefs from the workshop of Andrea della Robbia, which seem to derive from a lost autograph work, probably modelled at about the same date as the Madonna of the Architects in the Museo Nazionale, Florence (1475). The border was not necessarily made for this relief.

Andrea's uncle, Luca della Robbia (ca. 1399-1482) had pioneered the use of enamelled terracotta in Madonna reliefs, both modelled and reproduced using piece-moulding techniques. His nephew Andrea inherited the family workshop and exploited the possibilities of piece-moulding to great effect, producing Madonna reliefs in large editions but in varying combinations of different sections. The frame on this object, for example, was not designed specifically for the relief: the figures are slightly too short, and the height has had to be made up with the addition of a small white ledge. Other examples of this relief exist without the frame, or without the cherubs in the background.

The relief was purchased in Florence, where it was noted to have been let into the wall of a house over a doorway. The figures of the Virgin and Child would have been seen looking down on the inhabitants of the house, perhaps affording them their protection.


object details
Categories
Object Type
Materials and Techniques
Blue and white enamelled terracotta in a polychrome enamelled terracotta frame
Brief Description
Relief, the Virgin and Child, tin-glazed terracotta, by the workshop of Andrea della Robbia, Italy (Florence), ca.1475-1500
Physical Description
Relief in blue and white enamelled terracotta, in a polychrome enamelled terracotta frame. The Virgin and Child are shown in high relief, the Virgin in half-length with the Child standing upright on the parapet in front of her. The Child holds a bird in his right hand. Behind the pair are shown, in flatter relief, three winged cherub heads. The border, showing leaves, flowers, and fruit, may not have been made for this particular relief: the figures are slightly too short for the frame, so there is a small white ledge below the Virgin which has been built up in plaster to make the figures fit. Below the two figures is a console with, at its centre, a winged cherub head.
Dimensions
  • Height: 121.9cm
  • Width: 73.7cm
  • Weight: 72kg
Measured for the Medieval and Renaissance Galleries
Gallery Label
THE VIRGIN AND CHILD About 1475–1500 Workshop of Andrea della Robbia (1435–1525) Centre right The della Robbia workshop specialised in glazed terracottas. These were both colourful and durable, as well as cheaper than marble or stone. The frame is not original to the relief, though it is typical of della Robbia ware of the time. Italy, Florence Tin-glazed terracotta Museum no. 7547-1861(2020)
Object history
This relief was probably produced in the workshop of Andrea della Robbia (1435-1525). Andrea's uncle, Luca della Robbia (ca. 1399-1482) had pioneered the use of enamelled terracotta in Madonna reliefs, both modelled and reproduced using piece-moulding techniques. His nephew Andrea inherited the family workshop and exploited the possibilities of piece-moulding to great effect, producing Madonna reliefs in large editions but in varying combinations of different sections. The frame on this object, for example, was not designed specifically for the relief: the figures are slightly too short, and the height has had to be made up with the addition of a small white ledge. Other examples of this relief exist without the frame, or without the cherubs in the background.



The relief was purchased in Florence, where it was noted to have been "let into the wall of a house...over an inner or court yard doorway" (Robinson, quoted in Pope-Hennessy, Catalogue of Italian Renaissance Sculpture). The figures of the Virgin and Child would have been seen looking down on the inhabitants of the house, perhaps affording them their protection.
Subjects depicted
Summary
This relief belongs to a large group of Madonna reliefs from the workshop of Andrea della Robbia, which seem to derive from a lost autograph work, probably modelled at about the same date as the Madonna of the Architects in the Museo Nazionale, Florence (1475). The border was not necessarily made for this relief.



Andrea's uncle, Luca della Robbia (ca. 1399-1482) had pioneered the use of enamelled terracotta in Madonna reliefs, both modelled and reproduced using piece-moulding techniques. His nephew Andrea inherited the family workshop and exploited the possibilities of piece-moulding to great effect, producing Madonna reliefs in large editions but in varying combinations of different sections. The frame on this object, for example, was not designed specifically for the relief: the figures are slightly too short, and the height has had to be made up with the addition of a small white ledge. Other examples of this relief exist without the frame, or without the cherubs in the background.



The relief was purchased in Florence, where it was noted to have been let into the wall of a house over a doorway. The figures of the Virgin and Child would have been seen looking down on the inhabitants of the house, perhaps affording them their protection.
Bibliographic References
  • Gentilini, Giancarlo, I della Robbia. La scultura invetriata nel Rinascimento, Florence : 1992, p. 271, n. 23.
  • Gentilini, Giancarlo (ed.), I della Robbia e l'arte nuova della scultura invetriata, Fiesole, 1998, p. 89.
  • Curtis, Penelope, Depth of Field: the place of relief in the time of Donatello, Leeds : Henry Moore Institute, 2004, cat. 43.
  • Inventory of Art Objects Acquired in the Year 1861 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, p. 51.
  • Pope-Hennessy, John, assisted by Lightbown, Ronald, Catalogue of Italian Sculpture in the Victoria and Albert Museum, London: HMSO 1964 (3 vols) vol. 1, cat. 213, pp. 222-223.
  • Santi, Bruno. In: Gentilini, Giancarlo (ed.). I Della Robbia e L'Arte Nuova della Scultura Invetriata, (exh. cat.). Fiesole, Basilica di Sant' Alessandro, 1998, p. 89, illus.
Collection
Accession Number
7547-1861

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record createdFebruary 25, 2004
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