Terracotta (Italian for ‘baked earth’) is unglazed earthenware of brownish-red fired clay. There are around 80 works in this material in the collection of Western sculpture. Artists used terracotta for bozzetti (sketches) and preliminary studies for bronze or marble statues. The 17th-century Flemish sculptor Artus Quellinus also made such studies for the Amsterdam city hall (now the Royal Palace), of which the Rijksmuseum owns a unique collection. Moreover, it has terracotta sketches and preparatory studies by Quellinus’ contemporaries Rombout Verhulst and Hendrick de Keyser, and by the 18th-century artist Jan-Baptist Xavery.

Autonomous sculptures were also produced in terracotta, particularly in Italy during the Renaissance. Many of those works are polychromed, that is painted in multiple colours. The Rijksmuseum has collected various Italian masterpieces, highlights of which are the Virgin as Mater Dolorosa attributed to Pietro Torrigiani, the Virgin and Child by Giovanni Francesco Rustici the Meester van de Ondeugende Kinderen and the richly glazed earthenware Madonna and Child between Saint Jerome and Saint Nicholas of Myra by Benedetto Buglioni, all from the early 16th century. Noteworthy works from the Netherlands are the caricatural terracotta figures by Pieter Xavery.



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