They were active in Florence from the early 15th century and elsewhere in Italy and France well into the 16th. Family members were traditionally employed in the textile industry, and their name derives from rubia tinctorum, a red dye.
Luca della Robbia founded the family sculpture workshop in Florence and was regarded by contemporaries as a leading artistic innovator, comparable to Donatello and Masaccio. He is credited with the invention of the tin-glazed terracotta sculpture for which the family became well known. His nephew Andrea della Robbia, who inherited the workshop, tended to use more complex compositions and polychrome glazing rather than the simple blue-and-white schemes favoured by his uncle.
Several of Andrea's sons worked in the shop. Marco della Robbia, perhaps the least talented of the sons, became a Dominican monk in 1496 but continued to execute sculpture. Andrea's sons Giovanni della Robbia and Luca della Robbia the Younger inherited the workshop and were responsible for adapting its production to 16th-century taste, influenced by contemporary Florentine painting. Another son, Francesco della Robbia joined the Dominican convent of San Marco in Florence in 1495 but maintained links with the family shop. His work included plastic groups and terracotta altarpieces, some executed in collaboration with his brother Marco. In the 1520s Marco and Francesco spent some time in the Marches, near Macerata, where they realized numerous glazed terracotta works.
Girolamo della Robbia was the only son of Andrea to continue the reputation of the family's terracotta works beyond the the mid-16th century. He spent much of his life in France, working for the royal court, often in collaboration with Luca the Younger, who joined him there in 1529.