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Publication Date

Summer 2008

Degree Type

Thesis - Campus Access Only

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Art and Design


Anne Simonson

Subject Areas

Fine Arts; Art History


This thesis challenges Vasari's portrayal of Luca della Robbia as the inventor of tin glaze which, after experimentation with the medium, Luca applied to the sculptural form in his scultura invetriata. It considers simultaneously the art-historical assessments of Luca and his scultura invetriata by scholars of Renaissance sculpture and scholars of Renaissance pottery who hold very different judgments of him. The thesis traces the roots of tin glaze from its Iraqi origins, follows its recipe as carried by Islamic potters who made their way circuitously from East to West in search of work, eventually arriving in Florence, where new evidence shows the recipe may have been shared with potters there. Luca was never educated or trained as a potter. "Social Networking" tenets of connectivity, access, and shared information are used as a framework to establish Luca's interwoven relationships within his Florentine community. The thesis argues that the viable connections made in this neighborhood link Luca to the potter Giunta di Tugio, who may have taught Luca about tin glaze or may have done the early work for him. Finally, supported by recent findings derived from science and technology, extant documents, and museum conservation efforts, a new version of the story of Luca della Robbia and his scultura invetriata emerges, one which repositions him to his rightful place in the forefront of fifteenth-century Italian sculptural art.