In March 2013 the Amici degli Uffizi presented to the press and public the restorations of three of the oldest works at the Uffizi Gallery, which were fully funded by their organization. All three are wood panel paintings. Two are crucifixes and the third is a diptych. They were temporarily displayed during the month in the hall of San Pier Scheraggio, the surviving old nave of the Romanesque church that was incorporated into the structure of the Uffizi Gallery ground floor.
The Amici degli Uffizi are the Florence, Italy-based founding and sister organization to the US-based Friends of the Uffizi Gallery. Often, our two organizations work together to fund restorations, but at other times, one or the other will be responsible for funding a restoration project, as is the case with these three works. The works were moved from the Church to Room 2, which houses works by 13th century masters including Giotto, Cimabue and Duccio di Buoninsegna. Ultimately, however, the paintings will reside in Room 1, which is being fully restored by the Amici in the same manner as the recent restoration of the Michelangelo Room, which was funded by both organizations.
The president of both Amici degli Uffizi and Friends of the Uffizi Gallery, Contessa Maria Vittoria Colonna Rimbotti, remarked, “These new restorations are part of a larger project that involves the future new opening of Room No. 1, dedicated to the origins of Tuscan painting of the 12th and 13th centuries.”
The first crucifix is by an unknown artist and is labeled with Maestro della Croce n. 434 degli Uffizi, which translates as Master of the Cross No. 434 of the Uffizi. The work is titled, “Crocifisso con Storie della Passione di Cristo” or “Crucifix with Stories of the Passion of Christ.” It dates from 1240-1245. There is little known about the work, but research indicates it may have been completed for a nunnery located in between Florence and Pisa.
The second crucifix is also by an unknown artist and is simply titled “Croce 432.” These numeric titles refer to the number assigned to the painting when it entered the Uffizi Gallery according to the inventory started in 1890, which today counts well over 10,000 items. Angelo Tartuferi, the director of the department of painting from the Middle Ages to the fifteenth century at the Uffizi Gallery said that, “The 432 Cross is one of the most beautiful and important examples of early Italian painting and demonstrates the ultimate refinement of craft and execution, through the brightness of the color range and the astonishing capacity of draftsmanship.” Both crosses are reminiscent of similar works found in Museo Nazionale di San Matteo in Pisa.
The diptych is by Bonaventura Berlinghieri and was created around 1250. The work is titled, “Madonna con Bambino e Crocifissione” or “Madonna and Child and the Crucifixion.” The diptych is large and it is believed that it may have served as portable altar for religious ceremonies. The work comes from the Monastery of Santa Chiara in Lucca.
Antonio Natali, director of the Uffizi Gallery, said, “I am grateful to the Amici degli Uffizi who, with their usual foresight and generosity, welcomed the proposal to restore these works that are important pre-cursors to Giotto.”