La Pietà by Michelangelo dell 'Opera del Duomo in Florence or Pietà Bandini will be submitted to a restoration that will end by the summer of 2020. The public will be able to see all the phases of the restoration thanks to a "open" construction site, specially designed, in the Museo dell'Opera del Duomo where the sculptural group is preserved.
The intervention commissioned by theWork of Santa Maria del Fiore, funded by the Foundation Friends of Florence under the supervision of the ABAP Superintendency for the metropolitan city of Florence and the provinces of Pistoia and Prato, it was entrusted to Paola Rose, assisted by a team of professionals who, after training at the Opificio delle Pietre Dure, gained thirty years of experience in the works of great artists of the past, including Michelangelo himself.
Sculpted in an enormous block of white Carrara marble, between the 1547 and the 1555 approximately, when Michelangelo was on the threshold of his 80 years, the Pietà from the Opera del Duomo in Florence, full of experience and suffering, it is one of three created by the great artist. Unlike the other two - the Vatican youth and the later Rondanini - the body of Christ is supported not only by Mary but also by Magdalene and Elder Nicodemus, to whom Michelangelo gave his face. Detail confirmed also by the two biographers coeval with the artist, Giorgio Vasari and Ascanio Condivi, thanks to which we know that the sculpture was destined to an altar of a Roman church, at whose feet the artist would have liked to be buried. The Pietà of Florence, Michelangelo's masterpiece "is considered as other sculptures by Buonarroti - he says Timothy Verdon, director of the Museum - unfinished work, even if the diction that would best suit him is that of the sixteenth century when it was still said to be an infinite work ”.
It will be a restoration that will respect the by now consolidated vision of a visibly "amber" surface of the Pietà and respectful of the patinas that over time with their natural aging process have transformed the original colors of the marble. The restoration, whose initial phase will involve a large diagnostic campaign, aims to improve the reading of the work which is mortified by the presence of deposits and foreign substances to the marble surfaces of the sculptural group.
The sources do not report any particular restoration work that took place in the past, other than that performed shortly after its completion by Tiberio Calcagni, a Florentine sculptor near Michelangelo, within the 1565. In the span of more than 470 years of life, during the numerous changes of ownership and the traumatic historical events, it is likely that the Pietà has been subjected to various maintenance interventions which, however, are not documented because they are considered simple routine operations. On the other hand, the cast made in the 1882 is documented, of which the plaster copy remains at the Gipsoteca of the Liceo Artistico of Porta Romana in Florence. It is probably precisely as a result of this nineteenth-century intervention that the surface of the sculptural group changed chromatically, above all due to the alteration of the substances used to make the cast, but also to the more aggressive ones used to remove the residues. There is news of a transfer of the work to the Galleria dell'Accademia, from 1946 to 1949, to study a better location and on that occasion it seems that the work was subjected to a "cleaning" of which however we do not know the details.
The current intervention will also make use of the results of diagnostic and gammagraphic investigations, executed respectively byOpificio delle Pietre Dure and by 'AENEAS in the study campaign carried out at the end of the 90 years and published in the 2006 in the volume "Michelangelo's Pietà in Florence" edited by Jack Wasserman.
La history of the Pietà dell'Opera del Duomo in Florence or Pietà Bandini it is worthy of a novel. Michelangelo not only does not finish it, but tries to destroy it in a moment of despair. He donated the damaged work to his servant Antonio da Casteldurante who, after having it restored by Tiberio Calcagni, sold it to the banker Francesco Bandini for 200 scudi, who placed it in the garden of his Roman villa in Montecavallo. In the 1649, the Bandini heirs sold it to Cardinal Luigi Capponi who took it to his palace in Montecitorio in Rome and four years later in the Palazzo Rusticucci Accoramboni. The 25 July 1671, the great-grandson of Cardinal Capponi, Piero, sells it to Cosimo III de Medici, Grand Duke of Tuscany, on the mediation of Paolo Falconieri, a gentleman at the Florentine court. After three years of further stay in Rome, due to the difficulties encountered in transporting it, in the 1674 the Pietà is embarked in Civitavecchia, reaches Livorno, and from there, along the Arno, arrives in Florence where it is placed in the basement of the Basilica of San Lorenzo . It will remain there until 1722, when Cosimo III will have it placed on the back of the main altar of the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore. In 1933, the sculptural group is moved to the Chapel of Sant'Andrea to make it more visible. From the 1942 to the 1945, to protect it from war, the Pietà is sheltered in shelters specially set up in the Duomo. In 1949, the work returns to the Chapel of Sant'Andrea in Cattedrale, where it will remain until the 1981, when it will be moved to the Museo dell'Opera del Duomo. The decision to transfer it to the Museum is motivated by the need not to disturb the cult due to the large number of tourists and for security reasons (the Vatican Pietà was vandalized in the 1972). From the end of the 2015, in the new Museo dell'Opera del Duomo, the Pietà is placed in the center of the room entitled Tribuna di Michelangelo, on a base that evokes the altar to which it was probably destined.
"The works of the new Museum have been the subject of a vast restoration campaign carried out on the occasion of the opening to the public at the end of the 2015 - declares the President of the Opera of Santa Maria del Fiore, Luca Bagnoli - while Michelangelo's Pietà, one of the most iconic masterpieces of the collection, remained to be restored. The Opera has also decided to start this delicate intervention, with the support of the Friends of Florence Foundation, to improve the reading of the sculptural group and thus allow the thousands of visitors, who each year choose our monuments, to be able to enjoy to the fullest even of this extraordinary masterpiece ".
"Since with Friends of Florence we started the journey to safeguard the heritage of Florence, defined by all as a world heritage site," says the President of the Friends of Florence Foundation, Simonetta Brandolini D'Adda - we have always paid particular attention to the restoration of Michelangelo's works: from David, to the Prisons, from the artist's drawings, to the River God until the repositioning of Michelangelo's wooden Christ in the center of the Sacristy of the Holy Spirit. We are now about to begin a fascinating project that leads us to restore, alongside the Opera of Santa Maria del Fiore, the Bandini Pietà, a true masterpiece that reflects the tormented soul of the great genius of Michelangelo ”.
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