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.