Andrea della Robbia
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These glazed terracotta depictions of babies in various degrees of swaddling were made to fit the pre-existing roundels in Brunelleschi's famous Renaissance loggia of the Ospedale degli Innocenti. The babies are the Innocents (of the Massacre of the Innocents from the Bible, also depicted in paintings made for the Ospedale's church and now in the Museo degli Innocenti) but also surely idealized depictions of the orphans for which the ospedale was founded to care in 1419. The hospital was one of the first in the western world to sepcialize in the care of foundlings. The hospital orphanage flourished in the following years, but was on verge of closing due to serious funding problems by the 1460s, and in 1483 children were said to have died from neglect. The administration of the hospital, however, managed to raise the necessary funds for not only upkeep but also expansion by 1485, which is likely when these works were commissioned, to celebrate the success of the hospital but also surely to appeal with their sweet, open-armed vulnerability for further support. Andrea's roundels are identical in shape and size, yet each child is different: some appear to be self-confident toddlers, while others are smaller in size, seemingly less than a year old. The sculptor's attention to individual expressions and physical characteristics may be an eloquent means of underscoring the variety of bodies and souls cared for in the hospital. The word used later in the early modern period for such young, soft babies was "tenerezza" a sweet tenderness that distinguished Renaissance putti from the classical ones that inspired them. Vasari praised Andrea's Innocenti, which were hugely popular through the centuries, especially in the nineteenth century, when many reproductions were made, including the putti on the ends, which are nineteenth century productions. The photographs are numbered according to the position of the roundel (moving from left to right). Some of the photographs are before the recent restoration, as noted in the file names. Photograph(s) licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.