By Ioannis Tzortzakakis

Francesco Jacopo della Robbia (later Fra ambrogio) was born in Florence, 23 July 1477, the seventh son of the sculptor andrea di Marco and Giovanna Paoli.

His collaboration with his father’s workshop of glazed terracotta is only documented from 1507, but it is very likely that he, like his brothers Marco Giovanni, Giovanni Antonio, Luca Bartolomeo, and Girolamo Domenico, had been engaged with the workshop at a very young age.

The intense devotion of his father, tied to the “reform” of the mendicant orders, soon made Francesco sensitive to Savonarola’s preaching. In fact, December 8 1495, he joined the Dominican order, as his brother Marco Giovanni did the following year, and changed his name to Fra Ambrogio. According to Vasari, Francesco and Marco Giovanni realized some medals with the portrait of Savonarola himself.

Francesco did not interrupt his relations with his father’s workshop. For instance, payments document that in 1508 (June 7-July 3) in Viterbo he worked on three lunettes of Santa Maria della Quercia. This was another important monastery of the Congregation of St. Mark, where Francesco could have been for religious reasons.

Francesco della Robia died, probably, in the summer of 1528, in Macerata, near Marches, perhaps of the plague that raged in those areas.

Nativity, Santa Maria degli Angeli, La Verna

Christ in Sepulchre, Santa Maria degli angeli, La Verna

Portrait of Girolamo Savonarola, Museo di San Marco, Florence

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