Della Robbia Frieze

The Adult Reading Room of the Peace Dale Library once served as an auditorium for civic occasions, graduations, plays, and musical performances, with a seating capacity of about 600. The space now houses the library's fiction, circulation, and reference departments, but
retains its original architectural character, with a high vaulted ceiling, balcony, and tall frosted windows.

Before the library expansion in 1989, the room's focal point was a stage (now removed) on the north wall, capped by a frieze, which is still there.

The frieze is a reproduction of part of a work by Italian Renaissance sculptor Luca Della Robbia (1400-1482). The original, inspired by  musical motifs in Psalm 150 and titled "Cantoria", was carved in marble for the choir loft (or "cantoria") of the Cathedral in Florence, Italy.  It now resides in Florence's Museo dell'Opera del Duomo.

The general subject of the work is joyful expression through music. It contains approximately 60 figures, all youthful, some quite small. Highly exuberant in their music-making, most are singing but others play drums, harps, lutes, and long trumpet-like pipes. Their instruments, along with a song book (at left) and a music scroll (at right), are highlighted in gold.

The frieze in the Library divides naturally into 7 panels, 5 in the middle of approximately equal size, and a narrow one at each end. One panel appears twice: second from the left and second from the right.

This plaster reproduction was created by a Boston firm called P. Caproni and Brother, which created plaster casts of European and American sculptures for schools, theaters, art schools, and public buildings. Their work was purchased throughout the United States and internationally, and is still available for sale today. 

Jessica Wilson
Updated February, 2021