Florence Cathedral was in color, the discovery during restoration

Nov 23, 2022 468

Florence Cathedral was in color, the discovery was made during the restoration of the Porta dei Cornacchini, which began in September 2021 and was completed a few days ago. Thanks to this work, extensive traces of color were discovered on the marble sculptural group of the Madonna and Child and Adoring Angels, made between 1359 and 1360, confirming that the sculptural group was originally polychrome.

Removing considerable deposits of surface dirt and degradation phenomena of various kinds, the restorers brought to light the precious damask decoration of the Child's robe, devoid of the now-lost metal blade, the pupil of the Virgin's left eye, and, in circumscribed areas, the blue-green color of the interior of the Virgin's mantle and traces of red on the exterior beyond the cream-ivory tones of the left angel's robe.

This is the first time such extensive traces of color have been found on sculptures that decorate or adorned the exterior of Florence Cathedral. Previously, tiny marks of gilding and light blue color had been found on other sculptures in the Cathedral.

In all likelihood, the Madonna and Child with Adoring Angels was not the only one of Florence Cathedral's polychrome sculptural decorations that now appear the color of white marble. Phenomena of decay but also aesthetic and conservative interventions, carried out in previous centuries, contributed to their loss. A Duomo, then in color, which together with the white, green and pink marbles of the exterior facades and the red and gold mosaics of the Arnolfo Canonici facade must have taken one's breath away in beauty.

Unfortunately, not much remains of the polychromy of the Madonna and Child and Adoring Angels because on most of the sculptural group's surfaces is a compact layer of brown oxalate, which diagnostic stratigraphic investigations have shown to be in direct contact with the marble, and above which another layer consisting of surface deposits and a fluorosilicate product, laid down in a 1950s intervention, stood out clearly.

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