Centered by the arms of the illustrious Acciaiuoli family, this impressive stemma is both emblematic of their Florentine legacy and exemplary of the Della Robbia production. Stemmi, coats of arms surrounded by floral garlands or inscriptions, were created to adorn the façades, courtyards and ceilings of important Renaissance buildings in which the requisite family or organization was active. They can still be found throughout Italy, and have served as lasting records of civil and political activity.
From the first generation onwards, the Della Robbia dynasty of Florentine sculptors and their workshops created stemmi, and today these form a significant aspect of their extant oeuvres. Notable examples include Lucca Della Robbia's famed stemma of the Mercanzia (1463) on the façade of Orsanmichele in Florence, and Andrea Della Robbia's stemma of the Della Stufa Family in the Palazzo Stufa (c. 1478), which, like the present example, depicts a rampant lion surrounded by a fruit and foliage-entwined wreath (illus. A. Marquand, Robbia Heraldry, New York, 1972, p. 37, no. 34, fig. 33). Under Giovanni's leadership, production of stemmi in the family's Via Guelfa atelier flourished. His output is noted for its colorful glazes - a reflection of his interest in contemporary Florentine painting - and it is primarily on this basis that the present stemma can be attributed to Giovanni's workshop and distinguished from those of his ancestors and siblings.
The Acciaiuoli are first recorded in Florence in the 12th century, and were initially active in banking, establishing an empire that spanned the Italian peninsula and stretched into Greece. Subsequent generations formed close alliances with the Medici family, which afforded them important civic and ecclesiastical appointments. Their landholdings were widespread, including a group of properties on the eponymous Lungarno degli Acciaiuoli in the shadows of the Ponte Vecchio. Owing to these assets, and to their elevated status, the present stemma could have been created for any number of prominent Florentine locales. The family's coat of arms - representing a rampant lion - also appears on either side of the predella of a Della Robbia altarpiece (c. 1497) in the family's chapel in the Florentine church of SS. Apostoli (see A. Marquand, op. cit. p. 111-112, no. 134, fig. 109), a connection that is not surprising given the impact of both dynasties on the city of Florence.
The present lot is accompanied by a thermoluminescence test stating the terracotta was fired in the 16th century.