Marietta Cambareri has just reached her 15th anniversary at the MFA. In her role as Curator of Decorative Arts and Sculpture and Jetskalina H. Phillips Curator of Judaica, Art of Europe, she oversees the collection of European sculpture. Her true love is Italian Renaissance sculpture, a passion that began during her days as an undergraduate at New York University and developed during her graduate studies at NYU’s Institute of Fine Arts.
When Marietta arrived at the MFA in 2001, she began to look closely at the Museum’s relatively under-studied collection of Italian Renaissance art. Among these works, a glazed terracotta sculpture now attributed to Giovanni Francesco Rustici, inspired Marietta to pursue her upcoming exhibition, “Della Robbia: Sculpting with Color in Renaissance Florence.” It is the first exhibition in the United States on the Della Robbia family and focuses on the glazed terracotta technique that they mastered during the Italian Renaissance.
As Marietta says, “Clay, color, and shine equal Della Robbia.” This sophisticated technique was invented and perfected by Luca della Robbia and his family workshop.
In Marietta’s words, “Della Robbia sculpture is very Florentine and very Renaissance.” And, Marietta succeeded in bringing a very special part of the Florentine Renaissance to this exhibition. The Visitation (about 1445), a masterpiece by Luca della Robbia, leaves Italy for the first time, travelling to the MFA and the National Gallery of Art from the church of San Giovanni Fuorcivitas in Pistoia, a small town near Florence. The monumental lunette of the Resurrection of Christ (about 1520–24) by Giovanni della Robbia arrives from closer by, the Brooklyn Museum. The conservation of this multi-part sculpture is made possible by the generosity of the Antinori family, direct descendants of the Marquis Antinori who originally commissioned it for his Tuscan villa and who is shown in prayer in the midst of the scene.
These extraordinary collaborations have made this project all the more special to Marietta. The Italian loans and loans from American collections will join glazed terracottas by the Della Robbia workshop that entered the MFA collection in the late 19th century. Patrons will be able to celebrate the arrival of these splendid visitors and newly appreciate the MFA’s highly regarded pieces when the exhibition opens on August 9. This fall, Patron Fellows are treated to an exhibition tour and lecture with Marietta, followed by an Italian-inspired reception.
Above: Giovanni della Robbia, Resurrection of Christ, about 1520–24.