From now until April, visitors to Florence’s Casa Buonarroti, the house-museum of the great Michelangelo of the Italian Renaissance, are in for a treat. They can see a team of experts working on the restoration of Artemisia Gentileschi Allegory of the Inclinationusing technology to determine what it would look like without the prudish draperies that have censored the artist’s nude wife for hundreds of years.
The painting, which Gentileschi created on the ceiling of the Casa Buonarroti in 1616, is an allegory illustrating “the inclination to produce art”. It was commissioned by Michelangelo’s nephew, Michelangelo Buonarroti the Younger, as part of a series of works by 15 young Tuscan artists made in tribute to the famous artist.
Gentileschi spent seven years in Florence between 1612 and 1620, during which time she became the first female artist accepted into the Accademia delle Arti del Disegno (Academy of Drawing Arts). The Allegory of the Inclination includes a possible reference to another academy member and personal friend of Gentileschi, the astronomer Galileo, in the form of the compass the woman is holding.
That Gentileschi was able to paint a nude female figure for his Casa Buonarroti commission – his first in the city – is another marker of the exceptional nature of his professional career.
“Artemisia Gentileschi lived in a world where women were excluded from the study of anatomy – a gender-based limitation that continued until the early 1900s. Her painting of the nude figure depicting ‘Inclination’ not only proved that she was up to the challenge of anatomical drawing and painting, but that as a woman she could very skillfully place the female body at the center of the canvas, Margie MacKinnon said in a statement. .
In 1684, Leonardo da Buonarroto, young Michelangelo’s great-nephew, decided he was not comfortable with nudity in his home. To spare his wife and children the sight of a naked woman, he hired Baldassarre “Il Volterrano” Franceschini to cover the naughty parts of the painting.
The initiative to strip the figure of Inclination to her original appearance is called “Artemisia Unveiled”, and she is funded by Calliope Arts, a British non-profit organization celebrating the historic achievements of women founded by MacKinnon and Wayne McArdle, along with British philanthropist Christian Levett.
The hope is to use modern diagnostic and imaging technologies to determine what lies beneath Il Volterrano’s additions and to recreate the original painting so viewers can finally see the artwork as Gentileschi had it. intended.
“Through work photographs, diagnostic imaging and analysis, we will be able to determine the exact technique used by Artemisia, properly map the condition of the work, and monitor our treatment plan for painting,” the project’s chief curator, Elizabeth Wicks, said in a statement. . “Due to the historical nature of the overpaints, it is not possible to remove them from the surface, but the scope of our diagnostics will facilitate the creation of a virtual image of the original that lies beneath the surface.”
The team plans to examine the painting with a digital microscope and use diffuse and grazing light sources, UV and infrared research, X-ray and high-resolution reflectography, and imaging and examination hypercolor multispectral, among other analytical techniques.
To carry out the restoration work, the painting was dismantled from the ceiling and moved to the museum’s model room, where the work will take place during opening hours. Every Friday, restaurateurs will be on hand to answer visitors’ questions about the process.
“Seeing the painting of Artemisia come down from the ceiling was very moving, because none of us had ever seen a painting come down from there before,” Casa Buonarroti Foundation president Cristina Acidini said in a statement. “It has probably never been taken down, since it was painted in 1616. So this is the first step in a great adventure.”
Following the restoration work, the museum plans to organize an exhibition on the project and its results from September 2023 to January 2024.
“The exhibition will highlight the results of the conservation and explore the context surrounding the creation of the painting, including the significance of its Florentine beginnings and its key relationships with Grand Duke Cosimo de’ Medici and the cultural milieu of the city,” Casa Buonarroti director Alessandro Cecchi said in a statement. .
“Artemisia Unveiled” is the first stage of a multi-stage renovation project at Casa Buonarroti scheduled for 2023. The institution will update the lighting system that illuminates the ceiling paintings, allowing visitors to better appreciate these historical works. Work on the museum entrance and gallery signage will follow.
See more photos below.
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