Girolamo della Robbia

Dates1488 - 1566

Born into one of the most internationally famous families of the 1400s, Girolamo della Robbia was a third-generation sculptor and ceramist. The della Robbias' reputation stemmed from their innovative work with glazed earthenware. The artist-biographer Giorgio Vasari reported that Luca della Robbia, Girolamo's grandfather, had invented the technique of glazing baked clay, or earthenware, but the family's closely guarded secrets actually revived ancient techniques. Girolamo learned the family business from his father, working in marble, earthenware, and bronze, alongside his brothers. By 1517, he accepted an invitation to France from King François I, who sought to create an artistic Renaissance in his country by importing Italian artists. In 1527, account books name della Robbia as master mason, engineer, architect, sculptor, and enameler at the Château Madrid, François I's Parisian residence. Girolamo also worked on other palatial French residences for members of the king's circle. After François's death, della Robbia returned to Florence, hoping to find work with Cosimo I de Medici, but his work was already considered old-fashioned in Italy. Della Robbia then returned to France, where he worked on marble sculptures until his death, but his ceramics remain the cornerstone of his reputation.