Arms of the Arte dei Maestri di Pietra e Legname
Luca della Robbia
MetadataShow full item record
This glazed terracotta roundel is on the exterior of Orsanmichele in Florence, high above the niche belonging to the Arte dei Maestri di Pietra e Legname (guild of master workers in stone and wood) and serves as a coat of arms for the guild. This is the guild to which Luca della Robbia and other sculptors belonged, and Luca was involved in the administration of the guild. Orsanmichele performed multiple functions, political, economic, and religious, as the city's grainary, but also as the site holding multiple miraculous images. The guilds (economic and political organizations that essentially formed Florence's republican government) had patronized niches on the exterior and commissioned statues by Donatello, Ghiberti and others to show their devotion and display their wealth and power. For the niche below, Nanni di Banco made marble statues of the four crowned saints, early Christian martyrs who were themselves sculptors, and did so in an overtly classical style. A marble relief below the niche shows sculptors at work. Luca's coat of arms above depicts the tools of the trades which belonged to this guild, but is glazed in two dimensions. (Ironically, Luca's roundel for the guild to which the painters belonged is in high relief, whereas this one for the sculptors' guild is more like a flat painting.) Luca had previously experimented with two dimensional glazed terracotta tiles in the floral frame around the Federighi tomb. The glazing technique here is slightly different, as Luca incised the edges of forms before adding the powdered glaze. (Glaze becomes molten when fired.) He also seems to have experimented with a fire gilding technique. This is no longer visible, but the enormous subtlety both of the foliate patterning, and of the depiction of the tools, light reflecting from their metallic-looking forms attest to the care taken here. The ax (the central symbol of the guild) is surrounded by the smaller t-square and calipers (for the architects), trowel (for the masons or builders in general), and the hammer and chisels (for the carvers and sculptors). Photograph(s) licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.