Cantoria (part of)

Cantoria (part of)

Purchased from Oronzio Lelli in 1877 for £195 12s


Cantoria (part of)
Luca della Robbia (1399/1400-1482)
Documented 1432-8
In the Museo dell'Opera del Duomo, Florence, Italy. Formerly above the entrance to the North Sacristy of Florence Cathedral, a companion to Donatello's Cantoria (documented 1433-56) for the entrance to the South Sacristy.

The Cantoria, or Singing Gallery, was probably designed as an organ loft, and may have acquired its name when, in 1688, the balustrade was replaced by a larger wooden structure to hold a choir to sing at Ferdinando de'Medici's wedding. It was not until 1891 that the reliefs and the surviving lower part were reunited by Luigi del Moro in an erroneous reconstruction, with single, fluted pilasters dividing the reliefs. The discovery, in 1899, of a selection of the original paired Corinthian pilasters and a retrieval of part of the architrave and of the upper inscription in 1941 permitted a more accurate reconstruction of the Cantoria in 1954. The cast in the Victoria and Albert Museum was purchased in 1877, in separate parts, consisting of the reliefs and the lower part only (see museum no.1877-44). The reconstruction which was carried out in this Museum seems to be a bland reflection of Luigi del Moro's reconstruction of 1891.

Notable differences from the later reconstructions include: single pilasters, with plain surfaces dividing the reliefs; the omission of the architrave and of the inscription on the frieze beneath the architrave. The inscription illustrated in the ten reliefs, was Psalm 150, of which the top line should read here: LAUDATE DOMINUM IN SANCTIS EIUS. LAUDATE EUM IN FIRMAMENTO VIRTUTIS EIUS. LAUDATE EUM SECUNDUM MULTITDINEM MAGNITUDINIS EIUS. Missing from both this and subsequent reconstructions are the two bronze angels holding candlesticks, which Lucca della Robbia added to the balustrade after 1438. These were removed in 1688 and are now in the Musée Jacquemart-André, Paris.