Tabernacles: a city tradition

American artist inaugurates San Frediano’s latest

Armando Buonaccorsi
February 11, 2010

In continuing a centuries-old tradition, the Florentine bank, Credito Cooperativo Fiorentino, has sponsored a new sculpture of the Madonna and Child for a tabernacle on Via del Leone in San Frediano.  The terracotta Madonna and Child is the work of the Italian-American artist Dr. Alan Pascuzzi, who is also a professor of Painting and Drawing and Renaissance Art History at New York University in Florence and a long-time resident in the city.


The over-life size original image of the tabernacle, made in terracotta from Impruneta, depicts the Madonna holding the infant Jesus, who with his right hand moves toward a cardellino (symbol of the Passion), and with his left points upward, in reference to his divine sacrifice.  The models for the work were the wife and infant son of the artist. 


The tradition of tabernacles with images of the Madonna began in Florence in the 1200s.  There are over 1200 tabernacles throughout Florence-the most of any other European city. Tabernacles were sponsored by important families, who commissioned important artists of the day to create sacred images for public, popular devotion. Lit by candles, they were also a means of illuminating the city. 


Professor Pascuzzi specializes in Renaissance techniques and traditional sacred images, in particular tabernacles. The Madonna of San Frediano is his third tabernacle in the city; the others being a fresco of the Resurrection on Via Ghibellina (2003) and a large bronze Baptism of Christ (2005) on Chiasso di Manetto, near Ponte Vecchio, which was the first ever permanent sculpture in Florence by an American artist. 


Although he is an expatriate, his close collaboration with the Soprintendenza and the Credito Cooperativo Fiorentino bank has allowed him to revive, continue and celebrate the centuries-old tradition of tabernacles in the city of Florence.



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