European Art: 14th-16th Centuries

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Virgin and Child with Six Angels, mid 15th century

Cast from a model by Luca della Robbia

Italian, 1400-1482
Glazed terracotta roundel
15-3/4 in. (40.0 cm) diameter
The Norton Simon Foundation
F.1965.1.106.S
© The Norton Simon Foundation

On view

Sir John Pope-Hennessey, Director of the Victoria and Albert Museum and renowned scholar of the Italian Renaissance, remembered seeing this small roundel at the home of the humanitarian Violet Mond, Baroness Melchett (1867–1945), and thinking it looked “good and genuine.” In 1971, the worn areas of the glaze and losses in the fired clay he had seen on the relief had disappeared under a layer of terracotta-colored paint and plaster. This was apparently done “to produce a more acceptable and even surface,” in Pope-Hennessey’s words. Mr. Simon took Pope-Hennessey’s advice and had a conservator remove these accretions, revealing the surface visible today. There remained, however, uncertainty about the attribution to Luca della Robbia, or even whether it might be a later copy, as many such roundels exist.

In 2012, thermoluminescence analysis was performed on powdered samples taken from the roundel, yielding a result consistent with a mid-fifteenth-century firing date. This new information supports the inclusion of the Norton Simon roundel with other copies Wilhelm von Bode attributed to Luca in 1900.

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