Virgin and Child

Italian, Siena
about 1530 to 1540
Unidentified artist, Italian (Sienese)

Object Place: Europe, Siena, Italy


Framed: 74 x 68.6 cm (29 1/8 x 27 in.) Maximum depth: 17.8 cm (7 in.)

Accession Number


Medium or Technique

Partially glazed terracotta

Not On View





terracotta medallion, figures in high relief and full round, extending above circle with green-blue background and ovolo cut rim. Virgin’s cloak deep blue over white shift, white head-dress, Edges of costume, face, hands and Infant unglazed.

By around 1550 the della Robbia workshop’s secret glaze recipe was all but lost. This relief can almost be seen as the technique’s last gasp. Here, an artist who worked in the sophisticated and graceful sculptural style typical of the later sixteenth century sought to add color through the application of glazes. With no access to the della Robbia recipe, he returned to the traditional practice of the maiolica painter, from which the della Robbia technique had originally grown. The low lead content meant the glaze was too viscous to achieve the desired effect; large areas of the Virgin’s white robe show imperfect flow and poor attachment of the glaze. The artist also applied two layers of glaze-first using a white glaze, over which he applied a second glaze-a maiolica technique that resulted in more transparent and less pure color tones, as in the green of the background.


1931, Malmedé und Geissendörfer, Cologne; November 26-28, 1931, Malmedé und Geissendörfer sale, Lempertz, Cologne, lot 476 [see note 1]. By 1938, Eugene L. Garbáty (b. 1880 - d. 1966), Schloss Alt-Döbern, Niederlausitz (Germany), New York, and East Norwalk, CT [see note 2]; 1953, sold by Garbáty to the MFA for $4000. (Accession Date: March 12, 1953)

[1] Attributed in the auction catalogue to a Florentine artist and dated to the first half of the 16th century. A handwritten authentication by Wilhelm von Bode, which appears to be dated 1926 or 1927, accompanied the sculpture in the sale. The authentication makes no indication of its previous ownership. [2] Garbáty emigrated from Berlin to New York between 1938 and 1939, bringing much of his art collection with him.

Credit Line

William Francis Warden Fund