Object Record

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Catalog number 59.167
Artist Robbia, Andrea della
Title Lunette of Madonna between Saints Francis and John
Object Name Sculpture
Description This large glazed terra cotta relief presents bust-length portraits of three holy figures: the Virgin Mary, Saint Francis, and John the Baptist. The two male figures are recognizable by Francis's tonsured hair, in which the center is shaved, and John the Baptist's hair shirt and cross-topped staff. 1460-1520 AD

Renaissance innovations were caused not only by new ideologies like Protestantism. Developments in artistic media also occurred, as seen here in the use of glazed terra cotta or baked clay. As told by the 16th-century writer Giorgio Vasari, Luca della Robbia, Andrea's uncle, invented a new tin-based glazing technique that would allow the terra cotta to be extremely durable, even when facing natural elements on the exterior of a building. The clay work was fired in an oven, then covered with a frit, a powdered substance containing silica and tin oxide, before being fired again. When heated, the silica- and tin-based frit produces an opaque glass fixed to the clay's surface. It has been argued that Luca was not innovative in the creation of the glaze, but he was the first to apply it to sculptural works.

From that moment, the della Robbia workshop, continued by Andrea, exclusively worked in the glazed terra cotta medium. Yet even with this new art form, the artists continued to create objects whose functions can be traced back to the Middle Ages. Their works ranged from large altarpieces and small wall plaques to works like this, which was placed over the interior or exterior of a church doorway. Just like the ornately carved stone relief work found on the portals of Gothic cathedrals, the lunette would have served the purpose of providing a visual support for the parishioners listening to the liturgy spoken during the mass.
Anthony DelAversano, in "SCHOLARS, EXPLORERS, PRIESTS, How the Renaissance Gave Us the Modern World," ex. cat. G -T M, Queens College, CUNY, February 2 - March 27, 2010, 13.
Medium/Material Glazed terracotta/Ceramic
Dimensions H-16.25 W-32 D-3.5 inches
Year Range from 1460
Year Range to 1520
Search Terms Renaissance
15th century AD
New Testament
Virgin Mary
Francis of Assisi
John the Baptist
Exhibition and Publication History *"Queens College Art Collection," 1960, #236.
*"Director's Choice, Part II," G-TM, 10/10-12/20/02, #11. Amy Winter, Curator.
* "SCHOLARS, EXPLORERS, PRIESTS, How the Renaissance Gave Us the Modern World," Curated by James M. Saslow, G -T M, Queens College, CUNY, February 2 - March 27, 2010, # 13, ill.
Culture Italian/Florentine