The restoration was performed with the sponsorship
of the not-for-profit Friends of Florence Foundation
Florence – The restoration of a large polychrome wooden Crucifix carved by a member of the Sangallo family (Antonio or Francesco) in the early 16th century and owned by the venerable Accademia delle Arti del Disegno founded by Cosimo I de’ Medici and Giorgio Vasari in Michelangelo’s name in 1563, was presented to the press today, 8 June 2017, in the conference hall of the Servite Fathers of the Basilica of the Santissima Annunziata at no. 6, Via Cesare Battisti in Florence.
Scholars attribute the Crucifix to the brothers Giuliano da Sangallo and Antonio da Sangallo the Elder, two renowned Florentine architects and sculptors, suggesting that it is likely to be the product of a joint initiative in which both brothers were involved and dating it to somewhere between 1480 and 1500. In discussing the Crucifix, Giorgio Vasari clearly mentions Antonio da Sangallo’s name, thus confirming that it is a product of the Sangallo workshop, but his assertion cannot of itself be considered decisive evidence with regard to the work’s attribution to a specific sculptor. In fact certain stylistic features also point to Giuliano’s son Francesco da Sangallo, in which case it would have been carved some twenty or so years later. In any event, the figure’s anatomical details and colouring, revealed by the restoration, single it out as a splendid product of the Sangallo workshop, one of the most prolific and most celebrated workshops operating in Florence, and indeed in Italy, between the late 15th and mid-16th centuries. The Crucifix (c. 165 x 160 cm.), which was originally made for the Florentine church of San Iacopo tra i Fossi, was allocated to the Accademia in 1849 and placed in convent of the Santissima Annunziata: specifically in the vestibule of the “Cappella dei Pittori” or “Cappella di San Luca”, the Painter’s Chapel whose patronage is held by the venerable Accademia delle Arti del Disegno, which owns all the works of art contained in it.
“It seems well nigh impossible” said Accademia delle Arti del Disegno President Cristina Acidini, “that such a celebrated and regularly displayed work of art like this wooden Crucifix owned by the Accademia del Disegno can be revealed as such an astonishing masterpiece after restoration. The ideal man of the Renaissance is once again made manifest in the icon of the Son of Man“.
The restoration project, which took almost two and half years to complete, was funded by the not-for-profit Friends of Florence Foundation, after winning the competition of the same name held to tie in with the 2014 edition of the Salone del Restauro di Firenze, a trade fair devoted to restoration. The prize consists in full funding for the winning restoration project. In 2014 the project submitted by restorer Francesca Spagnoli was judged to be the entry that best met the urgency criterion and best reflected the Friends of Florence Foundation’s mission.
In that connection, Simonetta Brandolini d’Adda, President of the not-for-profit Friends of Florence Foundation, thanked all those who took part in this marvellous salvage operation, highlighting the fact that “the completion of the wooden Crucifix’s restoration is an achievement of which we are extremely proud. Francesca Spagnoli’s restoration of this masterpiece has allowed the work to recover its original legibility and to acquaint all of us with a slice of its history that we would never have known of without it. The Friends of Florence’s mission is precisely to make the art and culture of Florence and Tuscany accessible to as many people as possible“.
“The artefact was suffering from the devastating effects of woodworm, and indeed the woodworms’ neutralisation was the very first conservation measure to be adopted” explained Giorgio Bonsanti, the the restoration project supervisor and himself a former Director of the Opificio delle Pietre Dure who holds the Chair of Restoration at Turin and Florence Universities and is the officer in charge of the Accademia delle Arti del Disegno’s artistic heritage. “The restorer’s confidence in the possibility of recovering the original polychromy with the assistance of scientific inspections has been fully repaid” – Bonsanti added – “and following the removal of the dark patina, the Crucifix now sports the colours applied by the sculptor himself (albeit with the natural ageing caused by the passage of time, as is only to be expected). Showing outstanding technical skill, the artist applied the colours with the tip of his paintbrush (the body hairs, the tears on the figure’s cheeks) and these astonishing details have been fully recovered during restoration. The final quality of the work is absolutely superb”.
In the mid-19th century the Crucifix was totally repainted in a dark brown colour to simulate bronze, which was considered at the time to be the most noble material of all. When Francesca Spagnoli’s project won the Friends of Florence prize, she recalls that “the original polychromy was totally invisible in that it had been completely concealed by later repainting in brown. The first problem was to consolidate the painted surface where it was suffering from widespread and very serious lifting. This prompted us to explore the environmental conditions throughout its conservation history in order to get back to the root cause of the lifting. The 3D scan and X-ray inspections performed on the figure of Christ provided us with valuable information and allowed us to identify the various wooden elements making up the sculpture as a whole“.
The results of the restoration illustrated today testify to the extraordinary level of artistic achievement in Florence during the Renaissance while also bringing to light one of the precious masterpieces of which the Accademia delle Arti del Disegno has been the diligent guardian from the very beginning of its long history and highlighting the importance of sponsorship and its value in the public interest, then as now.
The following speakers addressed the press conference convened to present the restoration: Giovanni Bettarini, Councillor for Town Planning, Territorial Policy, the Metropolitan Area, Decentralisation and the Smart City; Cristina Acidini, President of the Accademia delle Arti del Disegno; Simonetta Brandolini d’Adda, President of the not-for-profit Friends of Florence of Foundation; Dom Gabriele Alessandrini O.S.M., Conventual Prior of Santissima Annunziata; Giorgio Bonsanti, former Director of the Opificio delle Pietre Dure, Professor of Restoration at the Universities of Turin and Florence and supervisor of the restoration; Francesca Spagnoli restorer, graduate of the OPD and lecturer at Turin University and at the Accademia di Belle Arti in Bologna.
For further information, please contact:
Friends of Florence
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