One curious thing that one notes about della Robbia pottery is its inability to travel. It was made for the church and it should remain there. Even in the Bargello, where there is an ancient environment, it loses half its charm; while in an English museum it becomes hard and cold. But in a church to which the poor carry their troubles, with a dim light and a little incense, it is perfect, far beyond painting in its tenderness and symbolic value. I speak of course of the Madonnas and altar-pieces. When the della Robbias worked for the open air—as in the facade of the Children’s Hospital, or at the Certosa, or in the Loggia di San Paolo, opposite S. Maria Novella, where one may see the beautiful meeting of S. Francis and S. Dominic, by Andrea—they seem, in Italy, to have fitness enough; but it would not do to transplant any of these reliefs to an English facade. There was once, I might add, in Florence a Via della Robbia, but it is now the Via Nazionale. I suppose this injustice to the great potters came about in the eighteen-sixties, when popular political enthusiasm led to every kind of similar re-naming.
In the room leading out of the second della Robbia room is a collection of vestments and brocades bequeathed by Baron Giulio Franchetti, where you may see, dating from as far back as the sixth century, designs that for beauty and splendour and durability put to shame most of the stuffs now woven; but the top floor of the Museo Archeologico in the Via della Colonna is the chief home in Florence of such treasures.
There are other beautiful things in the Bargello of which I have said nothing—a gallery of mediaeval bells most exquisitely designed, from famous steeples; cases of carved ivory; and many of such treasures as one sees at the Cluny in Paris. But it is for its courtyard and for the Renaissance sculpture that one goes to the Bargello, and returns again and again to the Bargello, and it is for these that one remembers it.