Lot 194
  • 194


25,000 - 35,000 USD
37,500 USD
bidding is closed


  • 'Corsini Madonna'
  • parcel-gilt terracotta


The Bellini Collection Sale, Villa Medicea di Marignolle, Palazzo Corsini, Florence, 12-20 October 1976, lot 637

Catalogue Note

This intimate composition depicts the Child leaning adoringly into His Mother while steadying Himself by placing His hands around Her neck. Their cheeks are almost touching; Her right hand gently clutches His tiny foot preventing Him from stepping outside of the framework. The Madonna gazes at the viewer knowingly while also creating a barrier with Her right arm; She is poised to protect Her infant son from the outside world. This engaging composition depicts both vulnerability and reverence. The modest scale of the relief indicates that it was meant to be viewed from close proximity and therefore likely made for private devotion. The present work is set within an integral framework in the form of a ‘Medici ring’ which, set with a diamond, was an impresa used by Piero de’ Medici and later members of the family. They produced and sustained their authority visually by using the ring which likely symbolized a number of characteristics that were central to their position in Florence: a symbol of rule, eternity and strength (in the material of the diamond itself). The device marked Medici patronage on architectural projects as well as individual works of art. Lorenzo de' Medici's birth was heralded by a ring. The desco da parto, or birth salver, given to the prince's mother, Lucrezia Tornabuoni de' Medici, is painted with a gilt Medici ring on the reverse (the salver was sold in these rooms in 12 January 1995, lot 69 and is now in the Metropolitan Museum of Art).

This composition was one of Luca della Robbia’s most popular inventions; other versions incorporating the Medici ring include the eponymous example in the Palazzo Corsini, Florence; the von Beckerath Collection, Berlin; the Volpi Collection, Florence; the Jandolo-Tavazzi sale, Rome and one (excluding the Medici ring) set into an overdoor to the right of the portal on Santa Maria Nuova, Florence. A fine example of the composition by Luca, set into a wood salver, was sold in these rooms 26 January 2007, lot 237 and is now in a private collection.

The fact that this composition was produced in a variety of media and was set within different types of frames, testifies to the importance and popularity of the image as a piece of art and as a devotional object. As Gentilini explains (1998, op.cit.), the majority of Luca's sculptures from his early years were pigmented with natural tints and sometimes with white on a blue ground. It is only after the 1440s that he was consumed with producing glazed terracotta sculptures, like the primary example of the Corsini Madonna (op. cit., I.9, p. 164). 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.

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;
Giancarlo Gentilini, I Della Robbia : la scultura invetriata nel Rinascimento, Florence, 1992, vol. 1, p.48;
Giancarlo Gentilini, I Della Robbia e l' "arte nuova" della scultura invetriata, Fiesole, 1998, pp. 164-166;
Keith Cristensen (ed.), From Filippo Lippi to Piero della Francesca: Fra Carnavale and the Making of a Renaissance Master, exhibition catalogue, October 2004-January 2005/ February-May 2005, Pinacoteca di Brera, Milan/ The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, no. 23, pp. 194-95

Sold with a copy of a thermoluminescence analysis report dated June 2018 from Art-Test arte e Diagnostic, Pisa, indicating that the sample taken on May 2018 is consistent with the presumed dating of the piece, 15th century.