Friday 28 October 2011

Tuscany, Italy

......and of course H gathered lots of chestnuts for roasting
We both love visiting Italy, and have travelled there many times over the years. Sometimes we hire a car, but this time we caught buses. It is a good way of becoming familiar with the neighbourhood and challenges your ability to make your own way around.
We have seen so much over the years, visiting the south of the country to the north and all bits in between. We now like to take our time and just concentrate on one or two of the Renaissance greats.
This year it was the turn of Luca della Robbia and family, noted for their terracotta roundels. Their sculpture conveys charm rather than the drama of the work of some of their contemporaries. They developed a pottery glaze that made their creations more durable in the outdoors and thus suitable for use on the exterior of buildings.
The principle colours used in their glazes were blue and white often highlighted with yellow. Many of the roundels and large religious plaques were completely surrounded by sprigs of leaves and fruits, which added green, and various other colours to the mix, but by and large the pallet of colours used was fairly limited.
One of the buildings showing della Robbia tondo (roundels), and familiar to many, is the Ospedale degli Innocenti, in Florence. The tondo are on the outer and inner courtyard of the building, showing babies wrapped in swaddling clothes.
Ospedale degli Innocenti, Florence - Andrea della Robbia
courtesy Warburg via wikipedia

Virgin and child showing a wreath of fruit, cones & flowers - Andrea della Robbia -Louvre
courtesy Jastrow via wikipedia
We stayed high up in the hills above the medieval city of Pistoia, perhaps not a name that trips readily off the tongue, but a wonderful little city with many gems from the Renaissance both architecturally and artistically. It is rather like a mini Florence but without all of the tourists, a place we love.
Piazza del Duomo, Pistoia
Ospedale del Ceppo, Pistoia, with wonderful frieze by Giovanni della Robbia.

The hospital was founded in 1277, and named after the ceppo, hollowed out tree trunk, that was used to collect donations for its work.  It was one of the first hospitals in the world, and is still used today. 
The della Robbia frieze shows the Severn Works of Mercy.

To clothe the naked
To shelter the homeless and to visit the sick
To bury the dead
To feed the hungry and to give drink to the thirsty.
This frieze was added to the building in 1514 - 25, and only the last panel has deteriorated over the past 500 years.
A wonderful lunette over the entrance to San Zeno Duomo, Pistoia, depicting Madonna with Child and Angels  by Andrea della Robbia.
We purchased our own, rather inferior, memento of the della Robbia's..............

............another day, another time the beautiful city of 
The della Robbia family is quite a complicated setup - Luca (1400 - 1482) founded the sculpture studio, eventually he was joined by several of his sons, Giovanni Girolamo, Luca the Younger, and Ambrogio. Four of his nephews amongst them Andrea della Robbia, and eventually Andrea's son Giovanni, were all involved in the studio. When Luca died, his nephew Andrea, became the most influential sculpture in the family workshop.


  1. Hi, Rosemary - Andrea della Robbia has always been a great favorite of mine. My understanding is that he was held in high esteem by the other masters of Florence, and was on the civic committee that decided where Michelangelo's David should be placed.

  2. Hello Rosemary:
    What a delightful 'sojourn' this sounds to have been and of course, as you may imagine, we delight in the idea of travelling around by bus. A sure way of experiencing both people and places rather than being transported, almost in a vacuum, by motor car.

    And what wonderful things you have seen through a concentration, in this particular instance, of della Robbia and family. You are truly discerning sightseers.

  3. Dear Jane and Lance - it is lovely to hear from you again, and I am pleased all is well with you both. When we were younger we used to galavant all over the place trying to see as much of the masters as we could. Now we prefer to do things at a more leisurely pace concentrating on one or two things that we are really keen to see.

  4. Dear Mark - I am pleased that you enjoy the work of Andrea della Robbia too. You are correct that he was one of those appointed to decide the location of Michelangelo's David. One of the others was Benedetto Buglioni who learnt his glazing techniques from Andrea della Robbia. In the little mountain top village where we stayed, the local church had two large pieces by Benedetto, as did another church higher up the mountain. I just marvel that these precious pieces are so liberally scattered all over Italy in the remotest of corners.

  5. Hi Rosemary! I love your wide shot of the Piazza del Duomo, it has so much character with the odd buildings that appear to have been added over the years. I've travelled to Florence and Sienna but would like to explore more of Tuscany, and most certainly 'walk in the woods' as you did!

  6. i love the pictures you have taken! Italia is a country full of amazing arcitecture and art. and travelling by bus is so much more interesting... youcan chat with fellow travellers and look outside the beautiful landscape... oh! imiss travelling : )

  7. Hi Bertie - so pleased you like the shot of the Piazza del Duomo. When I got on the plane and looked at my camera something had gone wrong with the viewing window, so my husband bought me a new camera from the inflight mag. He knew that I would be lost without a camera. The new one has a panoramic shot feature which I am just getting used to.

  8. Dear Demie - Italy is a very special place to travel in, and we enjoyed our trips by bus. Every little bus always meets up with another bus, so no problems getting around.

  9. Wow, Rosemary, what a glorious tour! I've not seen nearly enough of Italy and long to go. Beautiful pictures, wonderful commentary as usual: thank you :-)

  10. Thanks Kate - for lovers of art and architecture Italy is a must.


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