Stop 16. Virgin and Child with Two Kneeling Angels in a Lunette


Attributed to Luca della Robbia (Italian, ca. 1400-1482)
Ca. 1460
Glazed terracotta
54 x 40 1/4 inches (1372 x 1022 mm.)
Purchased by Pierpont Morgan, 1910.


John Marciari, Charles W. Engelhard Curator of Drawings and Prints

Morgan’s Library was filled with Renaissance flourishes. For example, above the small doorway that led to the Librarian’s Office is a glazed terracotta relief by the Renaissance sculptor Luca della Robbia. It features the Madonna and child in the center, with an adoring angel kneeling on either side. The figures are framed by a stone surround inscribed with the Latin phrase Soli Deo Honor et Gloria, which means “Glory and honor to God alone.” While the lunette seems perfectly suited to the doorway, Morgan only acquired it in 1910, several years after the building was completed. It was tailored to fit the available space.

As is typical of Luca della Robbia’s work, the figures appear in white against a deep blue background. Della Robbia developed a new type of glaze in the 15th century that made his ceramics especially durable, while allowing for a rich diversity of colors. This elegant relief originally graced the entrance to the Renaissance oratory of Santa Maria della Quercia in Florence and was sold by a descendant of the original patron to Morgan through the dealer Elia Volpi. Additional colorful, glazed reliefs by the Della Robbia workshop and their contemporaries can be found on the walls outside Morgan’s study.