Madonna della Cintola (Terracotta altarpiece)

Dated around 1480, the Assumption of the Virgin (or Madonna della Cintola) is attributed to the Florentine sculptor Andrea della Robbia and his workshop. The altarpiece depicts a composition crowded with numerous characters: a row of six angels arranged symmetrically on the vertical axis crown the central figure of the Madonna, who is seated within an almond-shaped space delimited by twelve cherubs. Below the Virgin, there are four kneeling saints and, on the left, a martyr saint holds the palm of martyrdom. Saint Thomas the Apostle is recognizable because he is kneeling and looking upwards in the act of taking his belt, evidence of the truthfulness of his assumption to dispel his doubt. Saint Francis of Assisi is recognizable by the Crucifix and the typical habit. The last saint depicted in the lower right corner is Ansano, a Sienese Christian martyr who was condemned by Diocletian in 303. Saint Ansano appears in many devotional works in 15th century painting. This central part of the altarpiece is completed on the sides by two pilasters, with an imaginative capital of a composite order bearing figures of saints of reduced size, probably created by Giovanni, Andrea’s son. The predella is divided into three panels which depict the following iconographic themes illustrating moments in Jesus’s life: the dispute with the Doctors, the Baptism of Jesus, and the Lamentation over the dead Christ. The upper register of the work concludes the whole with a lunette delimited by frames of a classical type: the Eternal Father, flanked by two kneeling angels, in the act of blessing and holding an open book representing the first and last letter of the Greek alphabet.