Dear Friends,

As is widely known, the Renaissance was a period of great creative and intellectual activity, during which artists broke away from the restrictions of Byzantine Art. Throughout this period, artists would study the natural world in order to perfect their understanding of such subjects as anatomy and perspective.

Continuing this panorama of the Early Renaissance period, centered in Italy in the 15th century, we will now turn our attention to the famed Italian sculptor Luca della Robbia (also known as Luca di Simone della Robbia), who founded his family sculpture workshop in Florence and was regarded by his contemporaries as a leading artistic innovator, comparable to Donatello and Masaccio.

Luca's family members were traditionally employed in the textile industry, and their name derives from rubia tinctorum, a red dye.

After much deliberation, I have opted to show his Virgin of the Roses rather than his Virgin of the Apple (see here), which is other of my favorites among his works. Both masterpieces are in enameled terra-cotta.

Other great artists in the Early Renaissance were Sandro Botticelli (already featured), Domenico Ghirlandaio, Paolo Uccello and Piero della Francesca (soon to appear in this forum).

As usually, your good feedback will be much appreciated.

Thank you,

Luis Miguel Goitizolo


Madonna of the Roses

by Luca della Robbia

born 1399/1400, Florence [Italy]
died Feb. 10, 1482

Profile (2)

in full  Luca Di Simone Di Marco Della Robbia   sculptor, one of the pioneers of Florentine Renaissance style, who was the founder of a family studio primarily associated with the production of works in enameled terra-cotta.

Before developing the process with which his family name came to be associated, Luca apparently practiced his art solely in marble. The earliest documented work in polychrome enameled terra-cotta, executed wholly in that medium, is a lunette of the Resurrection over the door of the northern sacristy of the cathedral (144245). According to the art historian Giorgio Vasari, the glaze with which Luca covered his terra-cotta sculptures consisted of a mixture of tin, litharge antimony, and other minerals. The Resurrection lunette in the cathedral was followed by a corresponding relief of the Ascension over the southern sacristy door, in which a wider range of colour is employed.

Of the many decorative schemes for which enameled terra-cotta was employed by Luca Della Robbia, some of the most important are the roundels of Apostles in Filippo Brunelleschi's Pazzi Chapel in Florence (soon after 1443); the roof of Michelozzo's Chapel of the Crucifix in San Miniato al Monte, Florence (c. 1448); and a lunette over the entrance of San Domenico at Urbino (c. 1449). Luca's last major work in this medium is an altarpiece in the Palazzo Vescovile at Pescio (after 1472). There are also many notable works by Luca outside Italy.

Technical data (3)

Virgin of the Roses
1450 - 1455
Glazed terracotta
31 3/8 x 25 1/8 inches (80 x 64 cm)
Museo Nazionale del Bargello, Florence, Italy

Added 6/23/2003


(1) This image is a courtesy of Art Renewal Center.

(2) Sources: Encyclopaedia Britannica Online, Grove Dictionary of Art Online (excerpt).

(3) Source: Art Renewal Center.