Chapel of the Madonna of Impruneta
Luca della Robbia
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This chapel was built to house the miraculous Madonna of Impruneta, one of the most revered images, thought by many to have been painted bt St. Luke, which was taken on procession in times of crisis in Florence. The humanist Antonio degli Agli was the priest in charge of this church from 1439 until his death in 1477 and seems to have commissioned the rebuilding and decoration of this chapel as well that of the Chapel of the Cross on the other side of the nave. The classically-inspired marble architecture of the chapel and of the painting's frame (thought by some to have been designed by Michelozzo) mimics that of the chapel designed shortly earlier to house the miraculous Annunciation painting in Santissima Annunziata in Florence, except that here the structure is enriched not by coloured marble but by the cheaper, though visually splendid, medium of glazed terracotta in the frieze, the ceiling tiles, and the saints flanking the miraculous icon. The humanist patron may have been aware that clay is a classical medium that can signify a principled humility and so considered Luca's works particularly appropriate to this chapel, which parallels in physical form Agli's attempts in his writings to reconcile the literature of classical antiquity with Christianity. The church was bombed in 1944, at which time the chapel was damaged, and so the frieze on the side of the chapel is largely a modern reconstruction, as is the right side of St. Luke. Both figures were originally ornamented with gilding, traces of which survive. The grapes, lemons, and quinces in the frieze could represent the Eucharist, the Virgin, and the Resurrection, and the way in which the Madonna and Child breaks the otherwise continuous frieze suggests a holy apparition, and would serve as a reminder of the central icon when that image was veiled or away on procession. The pinecones are a reference to the name of the church (Santa Maria in Pineta) and also the sign of the confraternity devoted to this image. Photograph(s) licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.