Raphael's Madonna of the Goldfinch to emerge after 10-year restoration
Last Updated: Saturday, October 25, 2008 | 4:05 PM ET
Reuters, special to CBC News
The Madonna and the Goldfinch is shown before, during and after restoration. Experts had to use X-rays and microscopes to restore the masterpiece to its former glory. (Reuters)The Renaissance masterpiece Madonna of the Goldfinch, by Raphael, will be on public view in Florence, Italy, for the first time in 10 years after a painstaking restoration.
"We will celebrate it like the return of our prodigal daughter," Antonio Natali of the Uffizi said.
The painting will be on display in November in the city's Palazzo Medici before it is returned to its previous home, the celebrated Uffizi Gallery.
The 107-centimetre by 77-centimetre oil-on-wood work, known in Italian as the Madonna del Cardellino, portrays Jesus Christ's mother Mary with two children caressing a goldfinch.
The two children symbolize a young Christ and John the Baptist while the bird, feeding among thorns, is interpreted as representing Christ's future suffering by crucifixion.
The restored painting has been transformed from its faded and dour colours, more green and brown, to its original glory — a vivid blue sky and an equally bright blue dress on the Madonna.
Natali says meticulous restoration has removed centuries of film and grime.
"This patient gave us the most shivers and the most sleepless nights," Marco Ciatti said. Ciatti works at Florence's Opificio Delle Pietre Dure, one of Italy's state-run art restoration labs.
"We spent two whole years studying it before deciding whether to go ahead because with the damage it suffered in the past — which was clearly visible in the X-rays — a restoration attempt could go wrong."
Raphael, who died in 1520, painted the panel as a gift for the wedding of Lorenzo Nasi, a wool merchant.
The work was broken into 17 pieces when the Nasi house collapsed in 1547. Another artist used nails to put it together again and also repainted the piece to conceal the breaks.
It later became part of the collection of Florence's powerful Medici family, who also commissioned several repairs to the painting.
"I think I probably know this painting almost better than Raphael," chief restorer Patrizia Riitano.
"He looked at it, sure, but all these years I have been looking at it with a microscope."With files from Reuters
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