Primary Source

Swaddled Children Terra Cotta Bas-Reliefs [Architecture]


These images of swaddled infants come from a series of 10 glazed terra cotta bas-reliefs known as the "bambini." Andrea della Robbia sculpted them between 1463 and 1466 to adorn the Ospedale degli Innocenti, or Foundling Hospital, in Florence, Italy. The images show a sequence of childhood stages, from a tightly swaddled newborn to a child liberated from bindings that gradually loosen and fall aside. The images reflect the practice of confining infants’ bodies in tightly wound strips of cloth, which can be found on images of infants in many world regions and cultures.

The Silk Guild of Florence, responsible for foundling care in Florence starting in 1294, commissioned architect Filippo Brunelleschi to build a sanctuary for foundlings in 1419. The building featured a door—la routa—with a rotating stone platform where individuals could anonymously leave infants for charitable foster care until 1875. The Ospedale degli Innocenti as an institution provided continuous care for infants and children for more than five centuries. The image of the liberated child in the 2nd roundel from the left has been used as the official insignia of the American Association of Pediatrics since 1955.


Images courtesy of "Hospital of Innocenti Gallery," Museums in Florence, <a class="external" href=""></a> (accessed August 31, 2009).

How to Cite This Source

"Swaddled Children Terra Cotta Bas-Reliefs [Architecture]," in Children and Youth in History, Item #300, (accessed August 10, 2021). Annotated by Susan Douglass