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Luca della Robbia

Relief of the Madonna and child, c1450

Property from the Albright-Knox Art Gallery

Luca della Robbia

Luca della Robbia

Relief of the Madonna and child, c1450

Relief of the Madonna and child, c1450

Property from the Albright-Knox Art Gallery

Luca della Robbia

Florence 1399/1400 - 1482 Florence

Italian, Florence, circa 1440-1450

Virgin and Child, known as the "Friedrichstein Madonna" type

tin-glazed terracotta

white figures on a blue ground, integral splayed box frame, glazed in white with turquoise strips and blue disks in imitation of precious marble inlay

18 1/2 by 15 3/4 in.; 47.2 by 40cm.  

47.2 x 38.9 x 10.1cm (maximum depth); depth of the frame 6.3 cm; the image and related internal strip 37.7 x 28.8 x 6.2 cm (depth of relief)

This relief is a rare and exceptional example of Luca della Robbia’s skill in modelling. As with the majority of glazed earthenware sculptures from this period, there are old breaks and restorations. The relief had breaks and original firing cracks that were professionally and beautifully restored. There is also restoration to surface chips including those in the borders, the child’s proper left elbow area, some of the drapery folds on his lap and some edges of her cloak (on the left side of the image) that are not easily visible.

Several of the breaks occurred on the top portion of the relief, including on the blue ground and into the borders at the top third of the relief. There was a horizonal crack from upper left corner of the border diagonally down through her neck and two others from the central section of the upper border diagonally down through her cheek and forehead above her eyes leading into the top of the child’s head. There is a hairline crack from the center of the left outer border moving upward diagonally, on the blue ground to her veil.

The piece is stable and the modelling is outstanding.

In response to your inquiry, we are pleased to provide you with a general report of the condition of the property described above. Since we are not professional conservators or restorers, we urge you to consult with a restorer or conservator of your choice who will be better able to provide a detailed, professional report. Prospective buyers should inspect each lot to satisfy themselves as to condition and must understand that any statement made by Sotheby's is merely a subjective, qualified opinion. Prospective buyers should also refer to any Important Notices regarding this sale, which are printed in the Sale Catalogue.


Santa Fiora (Grosseto), the Capuchin church or convent;
confiscated by the Comune di Santa Fiora following the suppression of religious orders,1866;
sold by Santa Fiora’s municipal authorities to Léon Mathieu Henri de Somzée, c. 1867;
Brussels, de Somzée collection (documented from 1880 to 1904);
Brussels, sold by de Somzée’s widow to Rudolph Bottenwieser, before 1913;
Berlin-New York, Paul Bottenwieser Gallery until 1927-29;
Buffalo, Buffalo Fine Arts Academy, lent on approval by Paul Bottenwieser, 1927-29;
Buffalo, Albright Art Gallery (from 1962 Albright-Knox Art Gallery), bought from Paul Bottenwieser with support from the Seymour H. Knox Foundation, 3 May 1929

C. de Roddaz, ed., “Art Italien. Salon L. Somzée,” in L’Art Ancien a l’Exposition Nationale Belge [1880], Brussels – Paris, 1882, pp. 385-391, pp. 388-390, fig. 5 p. 388 (engraving after a drawing by Gustave Fraipont);

(J. Fievez, expert/auctioneer) Catalogue des Monuments d’Art Antique (…)composant les Collections de Somzée. Trosième partie. Objets d’Art Anciens (…), sale catalogue (Brussels, 22 Rue de Palais, 24 May - 11 June 1904), Brussels 1904, p. 58 lot 1142, fig. p. 49 (4 June);

F. Schottmüller, Königliche Museen zu Berlin. Beschreibung der Bildwerke der Christlichen Epochen. V. Die Italienischen und Spanischen Bildwerke der Renaissance und des Barocks in Marmor, Ton, Holz und Stuck, Berlin 1913, p. 32;

A. Marquand, Luca della Robbia, Princeton, New Jersey, 1914, pp. 161, 243, no. 94;

International Studio, October, 1929, p. 60 (illus.);

AD, 15 December 1929, IV, p. 8 (illus.);

F. Schottmüller, “Eine Madonna des Luca della Robbia,” in Academy notes. Buffalo Fine Arts Academy, XXI, 1930, 2, pp. 3-7;

F. Schottmüller, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin. Bildwerke des Kaiser-Friedrich-Museums. 2. Die Italienischen und Spanischen Bildwerke der Renaissance und des Barocks. 1. Die Bildwerke in Stein, Holz und Wachs, Berlin 1933, p. 24;

W. R. Valentiner, Catalogue of an Exhibition of Italian Gothic and Early Renaissance Sculpture, exhibition catalogue, Detroit Institute of Arts, 7 January - 20 February 1938), Detroit 1938, no. 34 (pp. and pl. n.p);

C. L. Ragghianti, “La mostra di scultura italiana antica a Detroit (U.S.A.),” in Critica d’Arte, III, 1938, pp. 170-183, p. 175;

L. Planiscig, Luca Della Robbia, Vienna, 1940, p. 35, no. 78; 

A. C. Ritchie, Catalogue of Paintings and Sculpture in the Permanent Collection, I, Albright-Knox Art Gallery, 1949, pp. 164-65 (illus.), 203, no. 79;

M. Downer, Long ago in Florence. The Story of the della Robbia Sculpture, New York, 1968 (p. and pl. n.p);

C. Avery, “Three Marble Reliefs by Luca della Robbia,” Museum Studies, VIII, 1976, p. 6-37, p.12, fig. 7, p. 13;

S. A. Nash, Albright-Knox Art Gallery. Painting and Sculpture from Antiquity to 1942, Buffalo - New York 1979, pp. 148-149 (entry and pl. n.p);

J. Pope-Hennessy, Luca della Robbia, Oxford 1980, pp. 35, 62, 66, 250-251 no. 28, pl. XXV;

C. Avery, “Three Marble Reliefs by Luca della Robbia” [1976], in idem, Studies in European Sculpture, London 1981, pp. 1-24, p. 5, fig. 7 p. 6; 

G. Gentilini, “Della Robbia, Luca,” entry in Dizionario Biografico degli Italiani, XXXVII, Roma 1989, pp. 279-291, p. 284;

G. Gentilini, I Della Robbia. La Scultura invetriata nel Rinascimento, 2 vols., Florence 1992, I, pp. 47, 102-103, fig. p. 60.

Brussels, Exposition Nationale Belge, 1880;
Detroit, Eighteenth Loan Exhibition of Old Masters, Detroit Institute of Arts, 7 January - 20 February 1938