Virgin and Child Enthroned with Saints Barbara, James, John the Baptist, Lawrence, and Catherine of Alexandria
Giovanni della Robbia
MetadataShow full item record
This glazed terracotta tabernacle stands in the heart of the modern city of Florence, at the intersection of via Nazionale and via dell'Ariento. It was commissioned in 1522 by the Reame di Beliemme ("Kingdom of Bethlehem"), a group of men who lived in this area of the city, and was made by Giovanni della Robbia, whose home and workshop was in this same neighborhood. As Rosenthal and Burke have noted, the grouping of saints highlights this immigrant neighborhood's strong northern European heritage (reflected by the pilgrim saint James, together with saints Barbara and Catherine, who were favored by the German community in Florence) while also honouring the kingdom's immediate surroundings and civic identity (with Saint Lawrence, alluding to the nearby church of San Lorenzo, and St John the Baptist, the patron saint of the city of Florence). The inclusion of the plague saints Sebastian and Roch in the frame, furthermore, may indicate that the tabernacle was built in response to, and in thanks for the community's eventual salvation from, the plague of 1522. The elaborate decorative program and wide colour palette - with tones of brown, purple, green and yellow, as well as blue and white, used to simulate a variety of precious stones, fabrics, and flesh - are typical of Giovanni's work. Photograph(s) licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.