The beautiful wreaths, topiaries and garlands adorned with clusters of seasonal fruits, vegetables, berries, pods, leaves and other natural materials are named after the Della Robbia family of Florence. The family of artists started with Luca della Robbia, born circa 1400, who -- at the urging of his father -- trained as a goldsmith, but later became a sculptor of bronze and marble. For economic reasons he began developing a way to sculpt in terracotta clay that would stand up to exterior climates. The glazing technique was a closely guarded family secret, passed on to Luca’s nephew, Andrea della Robbia (1435-1525). Many of the round pieces that Della Robbia sculpted were neatly bordered with seasonal vegetation -- flowers, leaves, berries, fruits and pods. Andrea’s style included more details, and elaborate, colorful borders frame his sculptures. Andrea’s three sons kept the Della Robbia school in operation until the mid-1600s.
In 1926, an article in House Beautiful featured photographs of holiday wreaths decorated with fruits and stated, “This idea was undoubtedly suggested by the gorgeous Italian carvings and terra cottas of the Renaissance…” Then, the magazine had a more upscale readership of families with servants and country homes, so most of the general population were not aware of this decorating trend; and with the onset of the Great Depression, decorating ... was not a priority.
It wasn’t until the late 1930s that the decorator at Colonial Williamsburg, VA decided to add fruit -- in the Della Robbia style -- to the plain evergreen wreaths and swags that embellished the doors and windows of the houses and shops in the historic site. Visitors to Colonial Williamsburg were quick to copy the new look, requesting information on how to make the decorations; and the wreaths and swags became popular throughout America. Because the design was introduced to mainstream America in Colonial Williamsburg, it is sometimes still known as the “Colonial Williamsburg style.” However, it is more commonly known as the “Della Robbia Wreath” and the Della Robbia family, Italian artists of the Renaissance, are the creators of the design that has transferred so beautifully from terra cotta to evergreen branches.
With the flush of color and early fruits of spring I have reinterpreted this wreath of plenty in a fresh bright feminine necklace packed with gemstones in corals, plums and delicate pinks:
|© jbEbert 2012|