Oscar Hainauer, Berlin, until 1894
Julie Hainauer, Berlin, 1894-1906
Duveen Brothers, New York, from 1906
Carlo de Carlo, Florence, sold at Semenzato, Venice, October 19, 2000, lot 169
From Filippo Lippi to Piero della Francesca: Fra Carnavale and the Making of a Renaissance Master, (Keith Cristensen, ed.),October 2004-January 2005/ February-May 2005, Pinacoteca di Brera, Milan/ The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, no. 23, pp. 194-95
Andrew Butterfield and Anthony Radcliffe, Italian Sculpture from the Gothic to the Baroque, New York, Salander O’Reilly Galleries, 2002, p. 42.
M. Reymond, "La Madone Corsini de Luca della Robbia," in Rivista d'Arte, II, 1904, pp. 93-100.
Allan Marquand, Luca della Robbia, Princeton, 1914, no. 88.
John Pope-Hennessy, Luca della Robbia, Ithaca, 1980, p. 251.
G. Gentilini, I Della Robbia : la scultura invetriata nel Rinascimento, Florence, 1992, vol. 1, p.48.
This intimate composition was one of Luca della Robbia’s most popular; Allan Marquand listed nine versions, including the example in the Corsini Collection, Florence. Versions are also in the carved doorframe of the hospital of Santa Maria Nuova in Florence and the vault of a cloister of Santa Maria di Castello in Genoa. The iconography of the Madonna holding Christ’s foot and of Christ grasping his mother’s veil, popular in Renaissance Italian panel painting as well as sculpture, derives from Byzantine icons.
The present work, most likely used for private devotion, is unique in being set into a wood salver with a gilt rim and blue ground. The only other surviving image of the Madonna and Child set in a bowl from Quattrocento Florence is Donatello’s Chellini Madonna, now in the Victoria and Albert Museum, London.
As Gentilini explains (op.cit.), the majority of Luca's sculptures from his early years were pigmented with natural tints and sometimes, as seen here, with white on a blue ground. It is only after the 1440s that he is consumed with producing glazed terracotta sculptures.
Luca della Robbia is first documented in 1427 when he enrolled in the Arte della Lana (the wool-workers guild) and was mentioned as a collaborator of Lorenzo Ghiberti on the east door of the Baptistery in Florence. In the 1420s he became friendly with Brunelleschi who began using Luca's sculptures to decorate his buildings. In around 1428 he received the important commission for the marble Singing Gallery (Cantoria) for the organ loft of the Florence Cathedral. He was later invited to compete with Donatello on further decoration for the Cathedral. In 1445, he formed a partnership with Michelozzo for the execution of the bronze foors for the North Sacristy, formerly commissioned from Donatello.
By the mid-15th century, he worked almost exclusively in tin-glazed earthenware (glazed terracotta), collaborating with his nephew Andrea della Robbia on what was to become a hugely popular and successful production.
Christensen notes (op.cit.) that “the expressive range and rich formal inventiveness of Luca’s terracotta sculpture established the norm by which painted images were judged.”
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