Glazed terracotta is an ancient technique, already present since the Middle Ages, and consists of the application of a special paint which vitrifies the terracotta, leaving it shiny and compact.
Between the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, the della Robbia family transferred this technique to sculpture, building a prosperous business in the Florence of the time and leaving an artistic legacy that embellishes almost all of Italy. Particularly in Pistoia, we can admire three spectacular majolica tiles from the family that spread a unique charm that characterizes the city.
The Spedale del Ceppo preserves one of the most peculiar external loggias ever, embellished with a series of polychrome glazed terracottas representing the seven works of mercy. Created by Santi Buglioni and Filippo Paladini, and other artists of the time, the work features medallions created by the Della Robbias, which illustrate coats of arms and sacred scenes from the life of the Madonna.
Among the most popular sculptures in Pistoia, “The Visitation” by Luca Della Robbia stands out, located in the Church of San Giovanni Fuorcivitas. It is a candid and shiny statue of the Madonna who hugs her cousin Elizabeth looking at her intensely. The fifteenth-century artist was the first to use the technique of glazed polychrome terracotta, creating a revolution in the world of sculpture and thus guaranteeing prestige and power to his entire family.
On the top of the portal of the Cathedral of San Zeno is the work of Andrea Della Robbia “The Madonna with Child among the Angels”, a special lunette in glazed white and blue terracotta that stands out for its beauty and simplicity. Andrea Della Robbia concentrates two classic Christian iconographies in a single work, the coronation and the Madonna with child, offering us a masterpiece of majolica art.