Three restoration projects supported by Friends of Florence reopen to the public

Three restoration projects supported by Friends of Florence reopen to the public

Donatello’s Judith and Holofernes in Palazzo Vecchio, the Brancacci Chapel and Oratory of St. Sebastian in Church of the Santissima Annunziata

Wed 26 Jun 2024 11:47 AM

Three major projects restored thanks to support from the non-profit foundation Friends of Florence Foundation are now on public view: Donatello’s monumental bronze sculpture Judith and Holofernes in the Palazzo Vecchio; the sublime series of frescoes and ornamentation featured in the Brancacci Chapel in the Church of Santa Maria del Carmine; and the intricately decorated Oratory of St. Sebastian in the Church of the Santissima Annunziata.

The three projects yielded numerous discoveries about the works themselves, the techniques of the artists who created them, previous interventions and the history of the sites. Each restoration was conducted using state-of-the-art processes under the meticulous supervision of Florence’s renowned conservators.

“Each of these projects represent important chapters in Florentine history,” remarked Friends of Florence president, Simonetta Brandolini d’Adda. “Donatello’s masterwork depicts the Biblical heroine Judith vanquishing an Assyrian general. The complex effort within the Brancacci Chapel required a scaffolding system to address the double-tiered wall frescos and allowed visitors an once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to experience the paintings in close proximity. The multi-dimensional Oratory in the church of the Santissima Annunziata has been returned to its former glory after sustaining extensive damage during the flood of 1966. We are profoundly grateful to our donors who gave so generously to restore and safeguard these works.”

Donatello’s Judith and Holofernes

Donatello’s Judith and Holofernes (1457-1464). Bronze sculpture in the Palazzo Vecchio, Florence, Italy. Photo by Antonio Quattrone

Commissioned by Piero de’ Medici, the sculptural group once occupied the place where Michelangelo’s David later stood. It was intended to convey a story of the triumph of courage over tyranny and a call to defend the Florentine Republic. When the Medici family was exiled in 1495, the work was reinterpreted as a vibrant symbol of civic freedom. The restoration team included Palazzo Vecchio curator Dr. Serena Pini, art historian Dr. Lia Brunori in her capacity as supervisor and restorer Nicola Salvioli.

Read more about the restoration here.

Brancacci Chapel

Brancacci Chapel, 15th century. Fresco wall paintings by Masolino, Masaccio, and Filippino Lippi. Church of Santa Maria del Carmine, Florence, Italy. Photo courtesy of Friends of Florence

Following a thorough diagnostic investigation begun in 2020, the extraordinary cycle of wall paintings by Masolino, Masaccio and Filippino Lippi have been restored in the Brancacci Chapel. Supported by the Jay Pritzker Foundation and by Friends of Florence, the project involved the Servizio Belle Arti del Comune di Firenze, the Soprintendenza Archeologia Belle Arti e Paesaggio per la Città Metropolitana di Firenze e le province di Pistoia e Prato, the Istituto di Scienze del Patrimonio Culturale del Consiglio Nazionale delle Ricerche CNR, and the Opificio delle Pietre Dure. Vital new information arose during scientific investigations and the restoration process of the 15th-century frescoes. Findings will be presented at a conference to be held in spring 2025 and shared with the conservation community.

Oratory of St. Sebastian

Oratory of St. Sebastian, 15th century. Church of the Santissima Annunziata, Florence, Italy. Photo courtesy of Friends of Florence

Founded on a site established in 1082, and later reconfigured as a chapel by Antonio Pucci in 1460, the Oratory of St. Sebastian has been completely restored thanks to donations from Idanna and Giannozzo Pucci and their many friends around the world through Friends of Florence. The project ensures that the site can continue to be of service to residents and visitors, officiated by the fathers of the Servite Order. The restoration addressed impacts of the devastating floods in 1966 when the Arno breached its banks and was directed by Studio Bracciali and performed under the supervision of the Soprintendenza ABAP di Firenze. Daniela Dini oversaw the stonework, frescoes, and dome while Stefano and Marco Scarpelli were responsible for the paintings and the copy of Piero del Pollaiolo’s Martyrdom of St. Sebastian, restoring the chapel’s art historical unity. The original painting was sold to the National Gallery in London in 1854 by Robert Pucci.

Through its work, Friends of Florence creates opportunities for the study and appreciation of paintings, sculptures, architectural elements, places of worship, and collections at the Uffizi Gallery, the Accademia, the Baptistry, the Piazza della Signoria, the Museum of San Marco, and dozens of other museums, churches, and public sites.

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