Before the restoration
After the restoration
The restored San Marco Altarpiece, by Beato Angelico, returns to its Museum in Florence, The San Marco Museum. The San Marco Altarpiece was executed between 1438 and 1443 for the high altar of the church of San Marco. In 1438 Cosimo and Lorenzo de ’Medici obtained the patronage of the main chapel of the church, which they decided to renovate by relying on the work of Michelozzo. They then commissioned Fra ‘Angelico da Fiesole, for the new high altar – dedicated to the titular saint and saints Cosma and Damiano – a new and grandiose altar table.
The majestic panel was to constitute the culminating moment of the Medici commission, to show with magnificence the profuse commitment of the Medici to the church and convent of San Marco. In this circumstance it was decided to remove the triptych by Lorenzo di Niccolò, signed and dated 1402, which was destined for the convent of San Domenico in Cortona, where it still stands today.
The composition of the central pictorial table depicts a Sacred Conversation, at the center of which is the Madonna and Child enthroned between eight angels and eight saints. In front of the throne, located on a base with two steps, the angels and saints are divided into two groups. Saint Lawrence can be recognized from the left, who greets the faithful who approach the altar with the raised hand (he is the patron of Lorenzo, brother of Cosimo), Saint John the Evangelist (protector of Giovanni di Bicci, father of Cosimo), Saint Mark, to whom the church is dedicated, which shows his Gospel to John. On the other side of the throne, St. Dominic, the founder of the Order, who looks at Francis of Assisi, who in turn, together with St. Peter the Martyr, addresses the Virgin and Child.
Cecilie Hollberg, director of the Accademia Gallery in Florence, is pleased to inaugurate the rich program of events organized by the Museum in 2019 with the 2016-2018 New Acquisitions exhibition. The exhibition, which can be viewed from January 22nd to May 5th 2019, presents some masterpieces that have merged into the Museum’s permanent collections thanks to the commitment of various organizations, expertly coordinated by the Director, who also conceived and curated the exhibition project.
The aim of the exhibition is to make the general public understand how the Accademia Gallery of Florence, universally known for its impressive collection, is constantly engaged, not only in conservation activities, but also to increase its artistic heritage. With the New Acquisitions exhibition, it is possible to see how this intense work took place on several fronts and directions following different paths: four fragments of an altarpiece were purchased by the Gallery on the antiquarian market; a sculpture by Lorenzo Bartolini came thanks to a generous donation; two tables have been entrusted to the Gallery after confiscation by the Patrimonio dei Carabinieri; four paintings, finally assigned to the Gallery, come from the deposits of the Certosa di Firenze.
The amazing works with a golden background like the two saints by Niccolò di Pietro Gerini and the Madonna dell’Umiltà of the Master of the Bracciolini Chapel, were entrusted to the Gallery after the brilliant confiscation by the Operative Department of the Carabinieri Command of the Cultural Heritage Protection Unit of Rome. The two tables were still in Florence in 2003 when they were illegally exported to Switzerland. The investigations, initiated in 2006 by the TPC Operative Department of the Carabinieri Command under the coordination of the Public Prosecutor’s Office of Rome, have allowed the identification of a group of Italian professionals and a London antique dealer specialized in the illicit exportation of cultural heritage. Thanks to the collaboration with the Swiss Judicial Authority it was possible to seize the works and repatrate them in Italy in 2009.
Also worthy of mention is the beautiful bust of the playwright Giovan Battista Niccolini (1782-1861) by Lorenzo Bartolini. The sculpture was exhibited during the last edition of the International Antiques Fair in Florence and was generously purchased and donated to the Museum by the Friends of the Galleria dell’Accademia di Firenze immediately after its foundation. The history of the work is shrouded in mystery, in fact, it was not present in the study of the sculptor during the drafting of the inventory compiled at the time of his death but appears, a few years later in Florence, on the occasion of the Italian Agricultural Exposition, industrial and artistic of 1861. Given for lost, the bust has reappeared on the antiquarian market after more than a century and a half and, thanks to the generous donation, it can be definitively exposed together with its plaster model, already kept in the Museum.