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Is it Michelangelo? Are we on the verge of a new discovery?
Art-Test has been called to shed light on the matter in a small church near Florence
Who painted the “Pietà di Marcialla”? The issue has been debated for many years, but only on last 9th of May the first analyses were carried out on the wall painting in Santa Maria a Marcialla, a small church on the Florentine countryside.
Despite its remote location, the painting is of remarkable quality and some scholars believe it to be the work of Michelangelo Buonarroti. So finally the Municipality of Barberino Val d’Elsa decided to investigate the claim, by promoting objective studies conducted with scientific devices.
Art-Test Florence, in charge of the investigations, during the first survey could confirm the presence of many incisions to be connected with the transferring of the preparatory drawing onto the wall and, moreover, the existence of some “pentimenti” concerning e.g. the lower arm and the left leg of Christ. Furthermore, new details emerged from a first careful examination of the painting, e.g. the depiction of a city walled with towers, located between the Good Thief and Our Lady.
Much more needs investigation. It is not yet clear, e.g., which pictorial technique was used to perform the work, i.e. whether it is a real “fresco” or not. Moreover, based on the analyses made so far, it is not certain whether it was painted only by one hand or more painters contributed. This first diagnostic campaign was only the first act of the full scientific campaign that awaits this painting. The town of Barberino Val d’Elsa, by the will of its Mayor Trentanovi, shall support the next studies meant to fully understand the genesis of the work, the adopted art techniques , the material composition of the painting and the possible overlay of more versions. Eager to find out more? So are we! We will keep you up to date!
Last February 11, the results of the studies on this sensational discovery were presented together with the book “Research in Santa Maria Novella. The fresco of Bruno, Stefano and the others “, edited by Anna Bisceglia, superintendent of the Florentine cultural heritage and published by Mandragora.
Art-Test has been working on one of the three paintings uncovered on the walls of the church, i.e. the one attributed to Bruno di Giovanni, brother of Buffalmacco, depicting San Maurizio captain of the Theban Legion, along with the other martyrs, in a frenzied scene of deep intensity. The martyrs expressions reveal that they know that they are going to die, since they refuse to kill their Christian brethren.
Multispectral images have been acquired in the visible range, in IR reflectography and in UV fluorescence. Such results with XRF investigations, and photomicrographs, determined that the paint is for the largest part, not applied using the frescos technique, but it is a dry painting, that in IR shows an underdrawing. Moreover, on the surface, residues of adhesives have been found, intended for the application of a metallic sheet, especially on the helmets and the armours. The scene on the wall vibrated with the church lighting, with an illusionistic effect that today we can only imagine. (Or a virtual reconstruction could be produced and visualized on the website of Opera Santa Maria Novella, what do you think?)
Piero di Cosimo
On show this summer in Florence the monographic exhibition “Piero di Cosimo eccentric painter between Renaissance and Mannerism” (Uffizi, until 27/9), following the one recently concluded at National Gallery of Art in Washington.
Lent to Washington and now worth a visit in Florence, among others the extraordinary “Liberation of Andromeda“, as according to Vasari: “Piero never made a lovelier or more highly finished picture than this one“, (diagnostics by Art-Test, not yet published)
In the Florentine exhibition, paintings and drawings by Piero relate with works by artists such as Filippino Lippi, Fra Bartolomeo and Lorenzo di Credi, to highlight how the pupil di Cosimo stands out as an original painter, whose style was said to be more Flemish (or Venetian), rather than Florentine, as his paintings were more relying on color values rather than on the preparatory drawing. But is this what emerges from the investigation?
A solitary painter, he was however greatly demanded by the most prominent families of Florence (including Strozzi, Capponi, Vespucci). He was an experimenter, one of the firsts, along with Leonardo, adopting the oil painting technique. The studies conducted byE. Walmsley reveal, in fact, how Piero was also eccentric in the way he was making use of his tools, with overlapping and peculiar brushstrokes and sometimes also of fingertips. It was in fact just uncovering the use of such a particular way of working that helped to solve several cases of dubious attributions.
Attempting new ways, away from the established traditional ones, however, could also be the cause of the difficult state of conservation faced by several of his works.
For example, the great altarpiece “Mystic Marriage of St. Catherine and Saints“, alongside the high quality of the original painting, revealed also significant losses under the multiple layers of repainting (diagnostic analyses by Art-Test, not yet published). This masterpiece was unexpectedly found, resurfacing in the antiquarian market, in a private collection. On special loan for the exhibition, you can now admire it during the challenging phases of restoration. Such a unique opportunity should also not be missed!
The top part of the altarpiece was missing, but a befitting fragment displaying two angels distributing incense and jointly carrying a crown, listed as “style of Piero di Cosimo” was identified at the National Gallery in Edinburgh. When it came to Florence to undergo the necessary conservation treatments, the examinations revealed on the altarpiece, concealed by overpainting and restoration, the feet of the angels of the top. The testing (performed by Art-Test, still to be published) left no doubt! The repainting has been removed and the two parts are now joined for the display. So the angels got their feet again, but only temporarily, since after the exhibition they will be separated by over 1700 km again!
“Angels holding a crown “, before restoration, Piero di Cosimo, National Gallery of Edinburgh
“Mystic Marriage of St. Catherine”, before restoration, Piero di Cosimo, private collection; currently on display at the Florentine exhibition in the course of the conservation treatment
The diagnostic campaign performed on the “Annunciation” of Santi di Tito in the Carmine Church in Pisa lead to an unexpected discovery and to new insights, crucial for dating the painting.
On top of the XRF analyses planned in order to achieved data on the materials present on the painting, and help defining the best treatments thereafter, Art-Test added a scanning InGaAs infrared refectography, to visualize the underdrawing. A surprising detail was then revealed of the preparatory sketch of the “lantern” of the Cathedral’s dome, not visible to the naked eye. As visible in the above picture, on the right side of the building appears a sort of crane.
But why was there a crane on the top of the Dome? This is a recovered memory of a very specific moment in history, which was hidden already when the painter moved from the underdrawing to the paint layers.
It is recorded that in 1601 a lighting stroke the “Cupola“ severely damaging it, and even the Verrocchio’s bronze ball (atop the lantern) felt off, rolling in the Dome’s square, where a marble disk still reminds of this unfortunate event.
The presence of the crane detail may mean that the underdrawing could have been realized during the lantern restoration, started just after the event. Food for thought for historians, and appreciation for the achievement of our diagnostics tools, as our analysis brought new insight on the period and methods of executions of the painting but also on history of building technique.
A broader publication is due to come soon.
The 11th of April a superb painting was presented to public as it became, through a highly generous donation of Bernardo Caprotti, part of the Pinacoteca Ambrosiana collection.
We had the true privilege to investigate it with IR Scanner Reflectography, IR false color, UV fluorescenze and Multilayer Method. It resulted as one of the most amazing paintings we ever came to analyze.
It is now proposed, after a 7 years period of intense studies, as a painting by Leonardo.
The shocking image which appears in reflectography, showing the serene figure of a woman, superimposing to overwhelming “face of Christ”, which is the subject of the visible painting, provides an intense emotion which is not to forget.
The impressive attribution brought, as to be expected, a lot criticism. We invite you to go and see it live, and to have a look at the IR scanner image which is published in the book: “Il Caprotti di Caprotti”, by M. Zecchini, Marsilio Editore, 2013.
See details at:
We start chronologically from when in March, the diagnostics performed on the ‘Ratto delle Sabine’ by Giambologna, at the Galleria dell’Accademia, in Florence, was presented. This work, which took some time and many skills, since, among others, Xray, UltraSound and Geo-Radar (with the help of S.T. Art-Test) methodologies were employed, led to unveil and understand some crucial information which was essential to plan and perform the restorative intervention which now taking place under a curtain in the Colosso’s room at the Galleria.
The Colosso is in fact not a copy of the massive statue with is currently under the Loggia dei Lanzi in Piazza della Signoria a Firenze, but an amazing bozzetto, all by Giambologna himself, as large as 4 meters tall.The subject was reinterpreted as Rape of the Sabine Woman since it was originally intended just as a showcase for the f the artist’s ability to create a complex sculptural group including male as female subjects, young and old people in a tribute to Michelangelo’s exquisite formal principle of an ascending spiral.
Diagnostics was intended to see how Giambologna worked, with which materials and techniques, and reveal unexpected facts
See details at:
Bought at auction as copy, it was confirmed original with the help of the diagnostic analyses performed by Art-Test Florence
During the SACI Symposium “Recognizing original artworks”, the self-portrait of Johan Zoffany (1777) has been presented. It was sold at an auction as a copy and it has been recently restored. The artwork shows the typical liveliness of the painter’s touch and drew the attention of Susan Grundy, art historian and collector, and convinced distinguished professor Mina Gregori. >> Yet it was the diagnostic test campaign carried out on the painting, with chemical analysis of the pigments and the Multilayer technique for image stratigraphy, that fully confirmed the painting authorship. Reflectography and X-rays showed some in-progress changes, which rule out the chance of it being of a copy, whereas chemical analyses confirmed the use of pigments typical of the painter’s palette. Further, some details of the curious dress sported by the painter led Cristina Giorgetti, costume historian, to confirm that the painting precedes the self-portrait of Cortona, of which this one is probably a sketch.