Cantoria--page 1 (of two pages)

Luca della Robbia
marble, originally in Florence Cathedral

In 1431 Luca della Robbia was commissioned to design a marble Cantoria over the door of the Sacristy of the Masses, also known as the New Sacristy. Two years after Luca della Robbia began the cantoria, Donatello was commissioned to design another Cantoria to be placed over the Old or Canons' Sacristy to form a counterpart to that sculpted by Robbia. Both of these singing galleries were dismantled, only to be reconstructed in the Duomo Museum.
Luca's cantoria as a whole is a complete reconstruction with copies in the panels. The actual panels are now installed below the cantoria, making viewing much easier. The photographs below of individual panels are of the original panels.

The upper part resembles a Roman sarcophagus supported by consoles. The architectural frame isolates four reliefs on the front and one on each end. Between the consoles there are four additional reliefs, though somewhat in shadow--less so now when separated from the whole structure. In general, Luca's figures are more polished and more highly finished than those in Donatello's cantoria.
Psalm 150, the popular Laudate Dominum, is inscribed in three lines on the cantoria--on the cornice, the base of the parapet, and the base of the console. Some of the reliefs also illustrate verses in this Psalm.


An end panel, far left

This is an early relief. The later panels, because they are livelier, are generally thought to be better.

Top register, far left

This panel illustrates the line in the Psalms which says "Praise him [the Lord] with sound of trumpet."

Detail of trumpet player and dancing children


Top register, second from the left


Top register, third from the left


Top register, far right


End panel, far right

This is an early panel, less lively than later panels.

Continue to page 2.

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© 2006 Mary Ann Sullivan. I have photographed (on site), scanned, and manipulated all the images on these pages. Please feel free to use them for personal or educational purposes. They are not available for commercial purposes.