The Della Robbia Family, Florentine sculptors and ceramists, have left an important footprint in Tuscan Renaissance art. Their superb works, and in particular glazed terracotta, can be seen in Florence and many other places in Tuscany. There are two tabernacles in Panzano in Chianti, in the San Leolino church. Villa le Barone is a former Della Robbia property, now transformed in a boutique hotel and managed by their heirs.
Luca Della Robbia, born in early 15th century, was a sculptor at the beginning of his career, and one of his first work, “the Cantoria”, can be seen at the Museo del Duomo in Florence. But he soon invented and developed the superb technique of glazed terracotta, also called majolica, giving to his ceramics beautiful shiny colors that were resistant to outdoors conditions. His nephew Andrea worked in his workshop and took over it at his uncle’s death in 1482. Andrea’s sons Giovanni and Girolamo continued his work and added many new colors to the simple polychrome works that the Della Robbia Family had produced earlier. Color became their primary focus and sculpture took the second place. Their work became more and more realistic.
The Della Robbia’s workshop was a very successful enterprise that developed many types of glazed terracotta products: liturgical items, such as tabernacles, baptismal fonts, altars… but also works made for use in private homes. Works were commissioned or bought from stock. Molds enabled the workshop to replicate popular models with consistent quality, and also to vary them by adding details before firing. The Della Robbia had a catalogue, enabling them to sell not only in Florence but also all over Europe.
You can see many of the Della Robbia’s work in the Bargello museum In Florence, but also strolling through the city you will come across many of their public works on or in highly visible and significant buildings in the city, including the Cathedral, the church of Santa Croce, the exterior of San Michele, Santa Maria Novella square.
The San Leolino church in Panzano in Chianti, which you can admire from Villa le Barone’s gardens, holds two Giovanni Della Robbia tabernacles.