The art of Andrea is very recognizable with most often a realistic white figure in high relief centered over a flat sky blue background in a tondo. The figure of a laureate identifiable with two lateral ribbons perfectly matches that description. It is estimated over $ 200K for sale by Christie's in New York on April 28, lot 9.
This bust 41 cm in diameter is inspired from the antiques with its curly hair, its beard, its proud attitude and its reddish-brown upper toga. It is mounted in a frame also in terracotta 62 cm in diameter adorned with fruits, vegetables and pine cones and attributed to the Della Robbia workshops. The antiquity of both elements is confirmed by a thermoluminescence test.
The theme of the laureate is rare and correlates this work with the project of the Poggio Reale villa for which a Neapolitan archive indicates that the Della Robbias provided four crates of glazed heads in circular frames.
Alfonso of Aragon duke of Calabria, heir to the kingdom of Naples, is unpopular because he loves too much pleasure and luxury. With the help of Lorenzo de' Medici who delegated his best architect to him, he starts in 1487 on a knoll near Naples the Poggio Reale villa destined to be for his own use the symbol of paradise on earth.
Events are rushing. The weak Alfonso now King of Naples since January 1494 is an easy prey for the French King Charles VIII heir to the fallen competing dynasty of Anjou. In autumn of the same year the French troops destroy the still unfinished Poggio Reale. Nothing remains of the villa except the memory of its extreme luxury and of its gardens which will inspire the French Renaissance.
The laureate surfaced at Christie's in 1902. Is it the ultimate witness of Poggio Reale or an additional copy that had not been delivered (and had been later framed in the studio) ? It does not matter : it is altogether a remarkable example of the work of Andrea della Robbia, one of the most original artists of the Italian Renaissance, and a sensational direct or indirect witness of the lost villa.
SOLD for $ 900K including premium
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