Meeting of St. Francis and St. Dominic
Andrea della Robbia and Workshop
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This partially-glazed terracotta lunette, along with the roundels on the exterior of the loggia, ornaments the portico of the Ospedale di San Paolo dei Convalescenti in Florence, designed by Michelozzo at the behest of Benino Benini, beginning in 1451 and finished in 1495, as inscribed on the facade. The use of partially glazed terracotta (the flesh and hair left unglazed in order to add more realistic cold-painting polychromy, now lost) is unusual for Andrea della Robbia's works and may reflect the experimentation of someone in his workshop (most probably one of his sons in this family business). Here also the warm tone of the unglazed terracotta contrasts equally with the white habit of Francis and the black one of Dominic. (If the flesh of the figures had been white, the work could have been seen as biased.) St. Dominic tilts his head inward, Francis more outward, the two old men's wrinkled knobby hands and sunken faces conveying their self-denying piety. This tender, very human embrace seems to have been meant to propitiate constant competitive tensions between the Franciscans and the Dominicans throughout this period. The Medici, St. Antoninus, and, in this period, Savonarola promoted unity between the two mendicant orders. Andrea himself worked extensively for both the Observant Franciscans and the Observant Dominicans. Some scholars see in the new emotional naturalism of this sculpture the influence of the thinking of Savonarola, of whom Andrea and his children are documented to have been followers and defenders. Photograph(s) licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.