How recently was this repainted?
The answer is never! It was extensively conserved and cleaned a few years ago, but the colors are all original! The pigment that you see is a glaze on a terracotta base, a very durable material.
Wow! It’s so vivid. I had no idea this color could last so long! Thanks! I guess it makes sense because it was so well preserved.
It is! The way that the glaze vitrifies and bonds to the terracotta means it basically never fades. The only danger to its vibrance are the glaze chipping off and dirt, which can, of course, be removed.
What does the eagle and snake represent?
Is it related to this serpent and dove?
Yes! The eagle and the snake are also a reference to Christ's triumph over evil!
There are various white doves in interactions with other animals such as serpents and rodents. Doves are a sign of the purity of the Holy spirit and the menacing animals again are a representation of sin or perhaps even temptation!
Oh very interesting thank you so much!
Is the blood on Jesus’s hands and ribs intentionally brown to show it has oxidized over the three days before he resurrected? Also is it intentionally the same color of his robe, if so why?
The Della Robbia never mastered a formula for a glaze that would remain red through firing. Brown areas like wounds, cross on the flag, and Christ's robe were painted red after firing; you can see traces of this paint in the folds of Christ's robe.
This paint and some gilding are the only colors missing from this composition today.
Why is it that the characters in this photo had contemporary clothing for an event that happened thousands of years prior?
That's a great observation! The practice of dressing religious figures in contemporary dress was commonplace in Europe for centuries. One reason this began was to make the figures more relatable.
Images were the primary means of communication between the church and a largely illiterate public. Therefore, making sure they understood who was who and what was going on was more important than remaining true to history.
Thank you! That makes sense. So they knew at the time that this was not “period appropriate.” It was a deliberate choice? Very interesting.
Basically! It was certainly a choice made by artists and the educated elite. The public may or may not have known that the clothing was anachronistic.
What a fantastic installation!!
It brings back memories of a visit to the Uffizi in Firenze with my parents in '95.
In "A Streetcar Named Desire," Blanche mentions Della Robbia blue!
Are there any other Della Robbias in New York City?
I'm so glad this work brings up so many good memories! There are certainly other Della Robbias in NYC. There was a wave of collecting Della Robbia's in the US in the later 19th century in conjunction with a Renaissance Revival trend.
It looks like there are few pieces on view at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in Manhattan! They are all much smaller that this very elaborate lunette though! This one was designed to be installed outdoors over a door or gateway.
Luca della Robbia, who started the workshop first rendered skin tones all in white. His nephew, Andrea began experimenting with unglazed clay and Andrea's son, Giovanni who created this one, worked with flesh-toned glazes!
Who is della Robbia?
Della Robbia is the name of a family and their Renaissance-era sculpture workshop in Florence focusing on brightly glazed terracotta. At the time this lunette was sculpted, the workshop was headed by Giovanni dell Robbia, the third generation.
The workshop was known for its proprietary glaze formula, which created more brilliant colors making them the most popular terracotta workshop in Europe.
Why was the Brooklyn Della Robbia "difficult to view" as your description indicates?
It would have been hung over a large gate or archway, above the heads of people who visited the country villa of the Antinori family.
The resilient glazes were ideal for outdoor decoration. The garland around the edge of this piece suggests that it was for a garden and the powerful resurrection imagery along with the lunette shape suggest it was for a gateway.
The della Robbia were known for their brightly colored glazes --- these colors are just as bright now as they were in the early 1500s!
What is the Brooklyn Della Robbia?
This colorful sculpture was designed to be installed over a gateway in the gardens of a country villa belonging to the wealthy Antinori family in early 16th century Florence. You can see their crest in the circles at either corner.
Though the sculpture was no longer installed with the museum acquired it, we believe it was for a garden because of the garland border. The lunette shape and the powerful resurrection imagery suggest that this sculpture was for an entryway.
How did people make this art piece?
This sculpture is made of glazed terracotta. “Terracotta” literally means “cooked earth” and is made from clay that has been molded and fired much like pottery. After the clay was fired the first time, the colorful glazes were applied and then it was fired a second time to fuse the glaze to the clay.
Each figure is its own separate tile, in fact, all of the separations you see are those of the original tiles. Della Robbia sculptures have an original numbering system imprinted on the inside of the tiles, so they can be assembled in the correct order.