The Della Robbia in Tuscany: An Itinerary

Who were the Della Robbia? They were one of the most important families on the Florentine (and Tuscan) scene during the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. They were sculptors and artists who specialized in the technique of glazed terracotta. The members of this family have become symbolic of colorful tiles: the robbiane, as we call them today. What we propose is a journey to discover the masterpieces of the Della Robbia in Arezzo and the surrounding areas. The State Museum of Medieval and Modern Art of Arezzo is the natural beginning of this artistic journey that takes us to discover the Della Robbia terracottas in the Cathedral, such as the monumental altarpiece of the Holy Trinity with Saints Bernardo and Donato by Andrea della Robbia. Just a few steps away from the Cathedral, there is the church of Santa Maria in Gradi where Andrea developed the iconographic theme of Our Lady of Mercy with soft and delicate lines in the Carbonati Chapel.
Church of Santa Maria in Gradi, Arezzo [Photo Credits: Anguskirk]
Church of Santa Maria in Gradi, Arezzo [Photo Credits: Anguskirk]
The House Museum of Ivan Bruschi in the spectacular medieval Palazzo del Capitano del Popolo houses in its collections a bust of glazed terracotta depicting the Redeemer by Giovanni della Robbia. The Casentino is the valley where visitors can admire more than anywhere else the Della Robbia terracottas. About fifty pieces are concentrated in a few places related to Franciscan and Camaldolese spirituality. Andrea della Robbia left his best works and a stylistic imprint in the convent of La Verna, which made him famous. Even today the churches, palaces and medieval castles scattered throughout the territory show fascinating examples of glazed and painted sculptures.
Nativity and the Christ in Sepulchre, Santa Maria degli Angeli, La Verna
Nativity and the Christ in Sepulchre, Santa Maria degli Angeli, La Verna
To enjoy more of the Della Robbia art, you can head to the Valdarno valley. Although most of their work has a religious theme, there are some examples of different subjects, like those found in the arms that decorate the facade of Palazzo d'Arnolfo in San Giovanni Valdarno. Montevarchi, a little town characterized by elegant Art Nouveau buildings, houses one of the most significant works of Andrea della Robbia, the Robbiano Temple, made for the church of San Lorenzo and now located in the Museum of Sacred Art of the Collegiate. The Valdichiana valley, an area rich in history and cultural traditions, offers visitors a particular route to discover some of Della Robbia’s works that have recently been studied and restored. Foiano della Chiana is a fundamental part of this itinerary, with the Crucifixion among Mourners and Saints in the church of San Francesco, a temporary display that cannot be missed. The Valtiberina territory has an interesting and rich path of works by Della Robbia and by the Buglioni workshop. In the medieval village of Anghiari, the altarpiece of the Virgin of Mercy is located in the church of Santa Maria delle Grazie and the bezel with Jesus and the Samaritan woman at the well, by Benedetto Buglioni, is in the Taglieschi Palace Museum. These are examples of the first stages of the Robbiano route in the valley. In Sansepolcro, Della Robbia’s art is revealed in the museum. A great suggestion to go see is the Nativity, from the workshop of Andrea, which is characterized by the natural setting of the scene.
Madonna and Child, Civic Museum, Sansepolcro
Madonna and Child, Civic Museum, Sansepolcro
Credits: Original article by Marta Mancini – “Diari di Viaggio” blog, part of the Social Media Network of Tuscany.