Gallery of the Ospedale degli Innocenti
Galleria dello Spedale degli Innocenti
Museum's plan
Andrea della Robbia - Glazed terra-cotta reliefs of swaddled babies


The "Ospedale degli Innocenti" is more than an architectural milestone. It has provided care of infants and children continuously for more than five centuries. Beginning with its sponsorship and through its services as well as its architecture, the "Innocenti" represents the evolving humanistic views of Florence of the early Renaissance.

The Gallery is arranged in one of the most famous and important architectural complexes of the early Florentine 15th century, that was commissioned and financed by the WooI Guild and built by Filippo Brunelleschi. The refectory, cloisters, dormitories, infirmary, nurses, rooms and porticoes were purposely balanced by Brunelleschi to create a harmonious and rational hospital architecture. Later, they were enlarged and decorated with frescoes, thus documenting the on-going activities of the institution and the favours of the reigning dynasty of the Medici.

The Gallery has been arranged in the loggia above the cloister and in the former dayroom of the children above the main portico. It consists of fine works that represent only a small section of the rich collections put together Down the centuries by the Hospital through gifts, bequests, loans or works commissioned by the institution itself. Although the most important works of the collection (Della Robbia, Beato Angelico, Vasari, Giambologna), were dispersed in the l9th century, the collection still preserves outstanding panel paintings, detached frescoes, furniture pieces, decorations and a series of precious illuminated manuscripts dating back to the 14th and 15th centuries, which are considered some of the finest preserved in Florence. The best paintings include The Adoration of the Magi by Domenico Ghirlandaio (1449-1494) made for the Hospital church. Among splendid and rich colours, the painting portrays some historical personalities (merchants of the Guild of Silk and their servants) connected with the life of the Hospital, worshipping the Child.

In addition to some fine "gold ground" paintings, the Gallery also exhibits a Madonna with Child attributed to the young Botticelli (1445-1510), still under the influence of his master Filippo Lippi; one of the most attractive glazed terracottas by Luca della Robbia; an altar piece by Piero di Cosimo (1461/62-1521) also made for the Hospital's church and a typical Madonna degli Innocenti of the school of Granacci (1469-1543), where the Madonna is seen protecting the children in front of the Hospital's portico.


When people
looked at the building during its early years, they saw 10 blank roundels, concave circular frames set within thespandrels,thespaces created between the arches. Then in 1487, 4 decades after Brunelleschi’s death, the 10 "bambini" by della Robbia were mounted in the roundels. In 1845, 2 additional pairs of "bambini," reproductions of some of the originals, were installed at either end.
Exactly when della Robbia created the "bambini" is obscure, but probably in 1463 - 1466, several years before their installation. Each of the originals is singular. Seven are fully swaddled from thorax to toe, and 2 are depicted with the swaddling clothes still tied but sagging below the waist or knees.
One "bambino," the seventh from the left on the facade, shows the swaddling clothes untied and falling away from the infant. It is the only one with unbound feet. What della Robbia had in mind with this one variation is hard to say. Perhaps the loosened swaddling clothes represent liberation from the constraining stigma of the foundling origins of the "bambino."

Ospedale degli Innocenti
Facade by Brunelleschi
Men's cloister
Women's cloister
Ospedale degli Innocenti, loggia left side
On this spot there used to be a rotating drum into which unwanted babies could be placed so that they were taken safely indoors without the parents having to reveal themselves.
The epigraph says:
"For 4 centuries this was the wheel of the Innocents,
secret refugefrom misery and shame for those to whom
charity never closed its door."
This system was in operation until the hospital's closure in 1875.
The hospital also in this time took care of abandoned children.
Museum's room
Museum's room
These items were pinned to the orphaned children
in the belief that they would help reunite them
with their parents in the future.
Domenico di Michelino
Mary Protecting Children
Madonna with Child and Angel
Domenico Ghirlandaio
Adoration of the Shepherds
Adoration of the Shepherds - Detail
Domenico Ghirlandaio self-portrait
Adoration of the Shepherds - Detail
Adoration of the Shepherds - Detail
Giovanni del Biondo
Annunciation and Saints
Last quarter of 14th century
Cosimo Roselli
Coronation of the Virgin
Piero di Cosimo
The Mystic Marriage of St. Catherine of Alexandria
Bartolomeo di Giovanni - Predella
The Baptism of Jesus
1475 - 1480
Bernardo Poccetti
Fresco - Detail
Istruction of the Nocentini (Orphans)
Bernardo Poccetti
Fresco - Detail
Prayer in the Dormitory
Bernardo Poccetti
Fresco - Detail
The Visit of Cosimo II de Medici
in the Foundling Hospital
Bernardo Poccetti
Fresco - Detail
The Visit of Cosimo II de Medici
in the Foundling Hospital
Luca della Robbia
Glazed terracotta
Madonna and Child
Andrea della Robbia
Glazed terracotta
Hidden Italy * Bettina Röhrig * Logebachstr. 5 * D-53639 Königswinter * Germany