The restoration of the two legendary leaders of Paolo Uccello and Andrea del Castagno in the Cathedral of Florence has been completed
Dal 17 dicembre 2022 torneranno visibili al pubblico dopo il restauro
The restoration of the two magnificent frescoes by Paolo Uccello and Andrea del Castagno in the Florence Cathedral representing the legendary leaders Giovanni Acuto and Niccolò da Tolentino has been completed. From Saturday 17 December 2022, anyone who enters the Cathedral will be able to see them again, freed from the scaffolding of the restoration site that covered them in recent months, or take part in specially organized guided tours.
The restoration, which began at the end of May 2022, was commissioned and directed by the Opera di Santa Maria del Fiore - under the tutelage of the ABAP Superintendency for the metropolitan city of Florence and the provinces of Pistoia and Prato - and made possible thanks to American Express . The intervention was entrusted to the restorer Daniela Dini, who had already taken care of the two works in 2000. The two masterpieces have undergone numerous restorations over the centuries which have left an indelible mark on them. It was decided to intervene again because, although the state of conservation was quite good, more than twenty years had passed since the previous restoration and the pictorial surface appeared dulled by a uniform dark patina, caused by the accumulation of particulate matter produced by pollution and from inert dust deposited over time.
Of almost equal dimensions - the monument to Giovanni Acuto measures 855x527 cm and that to Niccolò da Tolentino 833x512 - of the two cenotaphs, only that of Paolo Uccello is signed, and it is the first time that the artist signs one of his works: "in a of proud vindication".
With his army, called the "White Company", made up of two thousand Welsh archers equipped with enormous bows, almost two meters high, the English John Hawkwood, nicknamed in Florence Giovanni Acuto (1323 - 1394), was a legendary leader and captain of fortune in the service of various States and finally of the Florentine Republic. Niccolò Da Tolentino (c. 1350 – 1435), after having fought for the Malatesta and passed into the service of the Florentines, was appointed captain general of Florence for his deeds. It was he who led, achieving victory, the terrible Battle of San Romano (1432), immortalized by Paolo Uccello in the famous triptych preserved in the Uffizi, the Louvre Museum and the National Gallery in London.
“The leaders of Paolo Uccello and Andrea del Castagno, declares Sergio Givone, Vice President of the Opera di Santa Maria del Fiore, have a particular symbolic value for Florence. This gives the restoration a high value not only artistic, but also civil and cultural".
“American Express enthusiastically supports the city of Florence with various initiatives aimed at enhancing its beauty and promoting its tourist attraction at an international level, says Maria Pina Carai, Director, Head of Client Management Global Merchant Services Italy of American Express. With the contribution to the Opera di Santa Maria del Fiore we want not only to promote the area, but also to restore value to the community and stimulate, through our ecosystem, quality tourism capable of attracting tourists from all over the world. Our goal is to generate benefits both for the Opera di Santa Maria del Fiore and for the entire city, supporting the discovery of small merchants, excellence and craft activities that represent the identity of Made in Italy abroad".
The current restoration intervention had a preventive and conservative nature. To eliminate the most superficial dust we intervened with a dusting with soft brushes on the whole paint, while the deeper one was removed with a light cleaning with a swab with cotton wool and deionized water and interposed Japanese paper, trying at the same time to maintain as much as possible the previous large-scale pictorial retouching. Finally, a punctual pictorial retouching was carried out, with tonal glazes, in the gaps through the use of natural pigments (vegetable and/or mineral).
The first restoration of the two frescoes dates back to 1524, by the painter Lorenzo di Credi who at the same time also created the "candlestick" frame on the fresco by Paolo Uccello. In 1688 the two works were "reinvigorated" on the occasion of the wedding of Prince Ferdinando, son of Cosimo III dei Medici, with Violante of Bavaria. Given the poor state of conservation, in 1842 the restorer Giovanni Rizzoli, with a very daring operation, detached them from the wall and placed them on a canvas framed only on the sides. While the painter Antonio Marini intervened with a substantial pictorial restoration. Instead of putting them back in their place, the two frescoes were placed on the counter-façade where they remained until 1946. Once again in poor condition, in 1953, it will be the turn of the important intervention carried out by Dino Dini who, in addition to removing the remakes of the previous restorations and to make a pictorial touch up on the gaps, he will remove the two frescoes from the canvas, placing them on a rigid support made of tempered masonite and an aluminum frame. In the 2000 restoration, also carried out by Daniela Dini, the two works underwent complete cleaning and a vast pictorial retouching with tonal veiling in the gaps.
The intermediation of the partnership between the Opera di Santa Maria del Fiore and American Express, which supported the restoration, was managed by ArtFin Servizi e Garanzia per l'Arte.
THE HISTORY OF THE TWO EQUESTRIAN MONUMENTS
In August 1393, when Giovanni Acuto was about to leave Florence, the Florentine Republic ordered the execution of a sculptural cenotaph in his honor in the Cathedral, an absolutely exceptional thing for a personality who was still alive. At the time, however, the Opera di Santa Maria del Fiore was unable to carry out the execution of the monument. A year later, in March 1394, Giovanni Acuto died and was buried with great honors in the Cathedral of Florence and later his remains were transferred to his hometown at the behest of King Henry II of England. A year after the death of Acuto, the project to build a marble tomb in the Cathedral will be resumed but abandoned in favor of a fresco painted by Agnolo Gaddi and Giuliano d'Arrigo known as Pesello. A commission that is part of a context of celebratory works intended to make Santa Maria del Fiore a pantheon of eminent personalities of the Florentine history of the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. Almost half a century later, on 26 May 1436, the Opera di Santa Maria del Fiore decides to build a cenotaph for Giovanni Acuto and just 4 days later, on 30 May, the name of Paolo Uccello appears for the first time in a real and own contract, where it is expressly requested that the monument be built in "green earth". The commission involved the reconstruction of the previous fresco by Gaddi and Pesello, which must have deteriorated in the meantime. After a month, the fresco of the leader was finished, but here was the twist: it was not considered suitable by the clients and it was ordered to be redone. Paolo Uccello is forced to replicate the painting which will be completed by August 1436, just in time for the solemn inauguration of Brunelleschi's Dome on 30 August. Paolo will be given the sum of 64 lire in addition.
After the second and final version of the fresco, on 17 December 1436, the Opera asks Paolo Uccello to also change the inscription on the sarcophagus which reproduces the last few lines of a panegyric to Fabio Massimo: DUX AETATIS SUAE CAUTISSIMUS ET REI MILITARIS PERITISSIMUS HBITUS EST. The commission to Paolo Uccello of the cenotaph for Giovanni Acuto is not the only one for the Cathedral of Florence and demonstrates how the artist was considered a leading figure. In February 1443 he was commissioned to paint the clock face on the counter and two months later the gilding of the star of the hands and the application of blue on the underlying surface. In the same year he was commissioned to design two stained glass windows for the dome's eyes: the Resurrection, the Nativity and the Annunciation, the latter lost in 1828.
The monument to the leader Niccolò da Tolentino (about 1350 - 1435) has a shorter and more linear history. Died in 1435, there is evidence of a large crowd at his funeral which was also attended by Pope Eugene IV. Twenty years later, in October 1455, the Signoria of Florence resolved to honor the memory of the leader with a monument in the Cathedral, confirming "in manner and form" that of the Acuto, which will be completed the following year, as per payment final recorded by the Opera di Santa Maria del Fiore, for a sum of 24 florins. Such a short time between the design of the painted monument and its execution suggests a particular attention of the Signoria, perhaps motivated by the friendship between Niccolò da Tolentino and Cosimo the Elder. Andrea del Castagno had already worked for the Opera di Santa Maria del Fiore in 1444, as a supplier of cartoons for the stained glass windows, and then in 1446 for having painted a lily and two sprites on the Cathedral organ, an Agnus Dei and for the gilding of the same instrument.