Tuscan art … on a plate?

Della Robbia
Andrea della Robbia (1435-1525)


Tuscany has great food but also amazing art. This is the first in a series of short posts highlighting some of these Tuscan Treasures. 

This weekend I found myself back in Paris taking advantage of the situation to visit the Louvre one more time. Whilst wandering through the corridors of this seat of medieval kings, it struck me how much of the art was made in Tuscany, and so I thought I’d share with you some of the Tuscan Treasures you have to leave Italy to see.

First, is this exquisite scene of the Virgin Mary with the infant Jesus and John the Baptist, by Andrea della Robbia. Andrea was one of a huge clan of Florentine artists who created these amazing ceramic sculptures which adorn churches throughout the region. Although this is not a plate—it’s almost two metres in diameter— it employs the same techniques. In fact this piece is well within the traditions of the blue, white, and yellow Italian maiolica pottery, still made on the peninsula.

The use of the plain white glaze for the figures gives them an other-wordly quality, with the blue and white detaching us from the holy figures in the same way that we feel detached by a black and white photograph. The figures themselves are as perfect as you would expect for a piece made in the epicentre of the flourishing Renaissance. I particularly like the look on the face of the baby Jesus as he sucks his finger in contemplation of his life to come.

This example has a wreath of white lilies surrounding it, but della Robbia often used fruit, oranges and lemons in particular, as a border making the sculptures feel even more culinary in nature.

Today is the 25th March, which in Catholic countries is the feast of the Annunciation. This celebrates the day that the angel Gabriel appeared to Mary and told her she was pregnant. For that reason, it’s celebrated exactly nine months before Christmas, and I thought this sculpture was particularly appropriate.

More Tuscan treasures from the Louvre and elsewhere coming soon.







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