This elaborate glazed terracotta lavabo (fountain for the ritual washing of hands) is situated in the sacristy of the Dominican church of Santa Maria Novella in Florence. It is generally considered to be one of the earliest independent works of Giovanni della Robbia (b. 1469, and so an adult by 1489, but still at this point working in his father's studio), based upon stylistic considerations but also a payment record. Pope Hennessy argues, however, that since the payment is only for a portion of the work (the tiles), the piece as a whole should be attributed to Giovanni's father, Andrea della Robbia, citing similarities between the Madonna and angels in the lunette and Andrea's works. Regardless, the rich and varied decoration here would become typical of Giovanni's oeuvre. Here, in addition to the more typical blue and white glazes, a purple glaze mimics porphyry, not one but three polychrome garlands festoon the scene (with comically young putti shown supporting their surely substantial weight), the pilasters have sculpted grotesques, and glazed flat tiles, vases of fruit and flowers, and, most spectacularly, an atmospheric seascape add to the levels of illusion and bravura artistry and technique. If this is Giovanni's first independent work, he was pulling out all the stops to show what he could do. Photograph(s) licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.
External DOI