Sculpture Journal

Copies and connoisseurship: Luca della Robbia’s Visitation in America, 1888–1909

Sculpture Journal (2019), 28, (3), 381–396.

Abstract

In 1894 Allan Marquand of Princeton University attributed the glazed terracotta Visitation (c. 1445) to the Florentine artist Luca della Robbia for the first time. Today, his opinion is accepted unanimously. This article argues that Marquand’s engagement with this scholarly issue grew out of meaningful encounters with plaster casts of the Visitation as well as with the original sculpture. During the very years in which debate over its attribution was renewed and eventually settled, six casts of the Visitation were purchased for American art museums on the East Coast. Focusing on the earliest acquisition for the Slater Memorial Museum in Norwich, Connecticut, I show the influential curators Edward Robinson and Henry Watson Kent to have been responsible for the cast’s dissemination, reaching public and specialist audiences. Ultimately, the story of the Visitation casts reflects the key role that reproductive images played in early American scholarship on Italian Renaissance art.

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Author details

Kupiec, Catherine