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Luca and Andrea Della Robbia – Fashioning the Family Fortune

Foundling HospitalThe imposed symmetry of the work architect and Dante scholar Fillipo Brunelleschi (1377 – 1446) in the name of geometric beauty is beautifully captured in the architecture of Florence’s Foundling Hospital (Ospedale degli Innocenti).

Built between 1419-1424 the Foundling hospital is characterized by a great clarity in which the relations between all the parts can be expressed in terms of measurement and its overall design simplicity.

Brunelleschi started a revolution in architecture, one, which glorified Italian history and influenced the way all other architects would think in the future and the shape of buildings to come.

He was not an imitator.

He was a sculptor and the Renaissance architect who evolved laws of linear perspective. He is most famous for completing the Dome of the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore at Florence (Duomo).

He took the various elements of his architectural repertoire, which was based on classical architecture from antiquity, the column, the capital, and rounded arch and recombined them with a mathematician’s regard for proportion. In a fresh new way, he illuminated the art of perspective in architectural form.

Brunelleschi relied on colour as an accent and within the space where his arches met he designed a tondo, or roundel that would provide an opportunity to feature beautifully rendered small relief sculptures.

TondoWhile applied at a later date, the Tondo containing relief sculptures at the Foundling Hospital in Florence are all beautifully rendered.

They demonstrate the beauty and elegance of Brunelleschi’s classical geometry as allied with the humanistic spirit.

Renaissance sculptor Andrea della Robbia (1435-1525) fashioned these miniature wonders, which emphasizde the geometry of form, the square, the circle, the cube and the hemisphere as they were intended to do.

Andrea came from an influential Florentine family studio, whose works were primarily associated with being fashioned in enamelled terracotta as indeed, the little foundling has been.

It was Andrea’s Uncle Luca della Robbia (1399 – 1482) who first developed the new technique of glazing earthenware (terracotta), a medium in art with which the family name became associated, enabling the images to be produced.

Andrea brought his Uncle’s development to new levels of achievement in terms of modelling and colour.

Saint Michael the Archangel

Detail: Andrea della Robbia (Italian 1435-1525) ca 1475, Glazed terracotta; wood frame, Harris Brisbane Dick Fund 1960, courtes The Met (Metropolitan Museum of Art) New York

Their surname Robbia means Madder in England, a herb used widely in the natural dying process to produce red before the invention of synthetic dyes.

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Fermoy House Facelift: David Roche Foundation Trust Museum

David Roche Himself 400 dpiAdelaide businessman, dog judge and breeder David Roche AO (1930 – 2013) purchased a ‘Federation’ style house in a good position on Melbourne Street in North Adelaide in 1954.

It was sited just a few miles from the original grid pattern of streets and squares within the city’s so-called ‘square mile’, and in an area acknowledged ‘as part of an early example of enlightened city planning’.

When he arrived David Roche decided to remodel the façade of the building so that it would give the impression of a house in the neo classical taste, which worked well with the antiques and art collection he was now forming.

Today Fermoy House, which he named for his French-Irish grandparents, houses just part of one of the greatest decorative arts collections in a private institution in Australia today.

The collection represents two centuries of design development.

Empire-Clock-David-Roche-CollectionDavid Roche’s treasures were a magnificent obsession, which he left in trust for the Australian Nation.

Managed by The David Roche Foundation (TDRF), established in 1999, the main focus is on objects collected from the English Regency and French Empire design periods, inspired in part by the bitter rivalry between two well-known rulers of taste George IV (1762 – 1830) and Napoleon 1 (1769 – 1821).

Over the nearly sixty years he lived there, the interiors of the house evolved to cater to David’s fads, fashions and passions and to provide an environment for an intelligent man, one who valued his privacy.

He made a number of additions, including one of his favourite spaces for living, which became known as the Roman Room.

Stretching right across the rear of the house it became a showroom for his favourite sculptures and a sitting room where he spent time with friends while enjoying a view overlooking the swimming pool, pavilion and garden. He set up a number of rooms to sit in dependent on his mood, the time of year and the art and objects it contained.

Recently Roche’s trustees led by Director Martyn Cook and Curator Robert Reason have not only added a contemporary gallery to accommodate thematic displays, but also formed it around an inner courtyard replacing the pool and garden.

Martyn Cook in the Roman RoomThis peaceful space now links the new trio of spaces to Fermoy House, which will be presented in the opulent manner David Roche so enjoyed.

They have also given Fermoy House a facelift, ready to cater for the crowds when this fabulous house museum complex re-opens to the public on Tuesday June 7, 2016.

Arriving into the ‘Roman’ reception room where red stucco walls superbly reflect the brilliance of the three incumbent white marble statues by Charles Summers (1825-1878), after Italian sculptor Antonio Canova (1757-1822), will be a very special experience.

From there visitors for the opening exhibition will enjoy visiting both Fermoy House and the trio of contemporary galleries recently built. The displays showcasing in Gallery 1: Neoclassic: The Spirit of Antiquity, in Gallery 2: Rococo: Graceful Exuberance and Gallery 3: David Roche: Kennels and Collecting will be sure to intrigue.

The TDRF website is now on line and tickets can be purchased for the opening Exhibition guided tours from June 7, 2016.

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