Penalty and Grace

At Palazzo Pitti, the Brotherhood of San Benedetto Bianco in the Florence Seicento

From 22 October 2015 to 17 May 2016

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Pitti Palace in Florence hosts ''Il Rigore e la Grazia' a unique art exhibition in Florence of little-known paintings made by great masters of the 17th century for the Brotherhood of San Benedetto Bianco, one of the most important Florence secular brotherhoods.

This must-be-seen art exhibition in Florence, Italy is on display in the annexes attached to the Palatine Chapel in the Museo Degli Argenti in Florence and intends to present the audience with a sort of rediscovered secret treasure. Of the 36 works on display, 21 have been finely renovated and restored to their original splendour. These are paintings by artists such as Vincenzo Dandini, Carlo Dolci, Matteo Rosselli, Onorino Marinari and Christopher Allori who, through their work, wanted to embellish the premises of the brotherhood.

The art exhibition in Florence at the Pitti Palazzo Florence Museum is above all an opportunity to admire the splendid Palatine Chapel, usually open only on rare occasions, but also a way to protect and enhance the cultural heritage of Florence, thanks to the dedicated restorations and the new exhibition rooms, which have also been renovated and added to the exhibition halls of the Museo degli Argenti in Florence, Italy.

The Palazzo Pitti exhibition winds through three rooms located to the left of the Palatine Chapel which, as well as the adjacent buildings, was once part of a large apartment that was home to numerous members of the House of Medici, including Cosimo II and his wife Marguirite-Luise d 'Orléans. It was in 1765 that Peter Leopold of Lorraine wanted to transform the salon into the current chapel.

The works on display in this fascinating art exhibition in Florence are as follows.

  • As already mentioned, 21 of them have been the subject of a meticulous restoration: these consist of 14 paintings, a fresco, a sculpture in papier-mâché, a manuscript and three cups, all belonging to the Archbishop's Curia and various Florentine churches.
  • The Palazzo Pitti exhibition at the Palatine Gallery is made particularly interesting by several study findings: through a large and precise archival work, the authors of the essays in the catalogue have been able to retrieve some valuable documents which show the original furnishings of the Palatine Chapel as well as those of the historical site of the Brotherhood in Santa Maria Novella Cathedral.
    This painstaking work has also helped to establish the paternity of works and paintings made for San Benedetto Bianco by famous artists such as Agostino Melissi, Jacopo Vignali and Volterrano but above all to retrieve the archival collection of the Zuti family, a very important document not only from the artistic point of view of the city but also useful to define its history.
    The eight paintings with biblical subject, which bear the signature of some of the most celebrated artists of the Seicento in Florence, represent scenes from the Old Testament which refer to facts that really happened to brother Gabriele Zuti, linked to the scourge of the plague in 1630. Among the most significant, we highlight 'Repudiation of Agar' by Giovanni Martinelli, 'Jacob and Esau' by Lorenzo Lippi, 'Healing of Tobias' by Mario Balassi,' Jael and Sisera' by Ottavio Vannini, 'Lot and the daughters' by Simone Pignoni, 'Finding of Moses' by Jacopo Vignali, 'Susanna and the Elders' by Agostino Melissi and 'Jeroboam and the prophet Ahijah' by Vincenzo Dandini.
    This masterpiece is certainly the most important donation received by the Brotherhood: the brother Gabriele Zuti commissioned it around 1650 to beautify his house and then gave it to St Benedict at the time of his death in 1680.
  • 'Il Rigore e la Grazia', included in the calendar of art exhibitions in Florence in progress, also showcases two wonderful paintings by Cristofano Allori, brought to light by the restoration after the damages suffered during the terrible flood of 1966, depicting San Giuliano and St Benedict. It should be pointed out that initially the tables were united and formed the great altarpiece that protected the relics on the altar of the Brotherhood: thanks to a special mechanism, the altarpiece could then be spectacularly raised on the occasion of the exposition of the relics of the two saints.

 

It is important to note that the Brotherhood of San Benedetto Bianco was founded in the Camaldolese monastery of San Salvatore in 1357. It was then moved to the Great Cloister of the Dominican convent of Santa Maria Novella and then moved permanently inside the Old Cemetery and more specifically, in the halls built by Giorgio Vasari in 1570, where it remained until Florence Capital. 
In 1866 the headquarters of the Brotherhood became the little-known 19th-century church in Orti Oricellari street. It was then moved to the parish of Santa Lucia sul Prato. Before its dissolution in 1940,  the congregation donated to the Florentine Curia all the artistic heritage acquired over the centuries, which was (partly) deposited in the Major Seminary of Cestello, where it remains today.

The young curators of the Florence exhibition, Michel Scipioni, Alessandro Grassi and Giovanni Serafini, were able to express the best of the art and spirituality of the Brotherhood, highlighting its main features: as suggested by the name of the Florence exhibition,  'Il rigore e la grazia', namely the propensity to seriousness and discipline but also to beauty.

Among the most original Florence exhibitions at Museo Degli Argenti Palazzo Pitti, 'Il rigore e la grazia' will be open to the public until 17 May 2016 - and we recommend that you do not miss it!

And if you just need a bit of extra time we suggest that you also explore the city: on our website you will find many tours in Florence that will allow you to learn about the magnificent Old Town and visit the most significant places of the Tuscan capital!

By Insidecom Editorial Staff