Madonna and Child between Two Angels. 1475-80. (diameter: 39 1/3 in.) Glazed terracotta. Museo Nazionale del Bargello, Florence.
Luca della Robbia - born in Florence 1400, died in Florence, 1482. Florentine sculptor, the most famous member of a family of artists. Nothing is known of his early career, and he was a mature artist by the time of his first documented work - a Cantoria (Singing Gallery, 1431-8) for Florence cathedral, now in the Cathedral Museum. In his own time Luca had the reputation of being one of the leaders of the modern (IE Renaissance) style, comparable to Donatello and Ghiberti in sculpture and Massaccio in painting, but his is now remembered mainly for his development of colored, glazed terracotta as a sculptural medium - in particular for his highly popular invention of the type of the half-length Madonna and Child in white on a blue ground. The family workshop seems to have kept the technical formula a secret and it became the basis of a flourishing business. Luca's business was carried on by his nephew, Andrea (1435-1525) and later by Andrea's 5 sons, of whom Giovanni was the most important. His successors tended to sentimentalize Luca's warm humanity, and in course of time the artists' studio became a potters' workshop-industry. (Ian Chilvers)