Italian Renaissance fresco ‘must be placed among 3,000 tombs’ | Italy

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A 30-year dispute over a fresco by Renaissance master Piero della Francesca shows no signs of waning after an Italian court ruled it should be returned to where it was originally painted, even if this place now serves mainly as a cemetery.

The Madonna del Parto depicts a pregnant Virgin Mary and is considered one of the greatest works of the Renaissance.

Completed around 1460, della Francesca is believed to have carried out the work, in situ, to adorn a wall behind the altar in the chapel of Santa Maria di Momentana in Monterchi, a hilltop town in the Arezzo region of Tuscany.

The wall and its fresco survived a devastating earthquake in 1785. The painting was then detached from the wall and displayed in an altar niche in the reconstructed chapel, greatly reduced to make way for a cemetery.

It was not attributed to della Francesca until 1889 and survived another earthquake in 1917 before being restored and moved in 1992 to the building of a former school in Monterchi which had been transformed into the Madonna Museum del Parto.

The move to the museum, which now attracts around 40,000 visitors a year, including some female pilgrims seeking protection during pregnancy, sparked a tangled legal battle over the painting’s location between the town hall of Monterchi, the local diocese , regional authorities and the Ministry. of culture.

The standoff entered a new stage when the Council of State, Italy’s highest administrative court, recently ruled that the painting should be returned to its original home.

Alfredo Romanelli, the mayor of Monterchi, argued that the small chapel, located slightly on the outskirts of the town and rebuilt again in 1956, no longer exists in its original form.

“Putting the nativity symbol in a cemetery on the outskirts, among 3,000 graves, doesn’t seem like a good idea to me,” he told La Stampa. “It takes a bit of imagination.”

Romanelli added that the chapel is not suitable for the masterpiece due to the light and does not have enough space to accommodate tourists.

After the question of the appropriateness of the location of the chapel was raised in parliament, Romanelli was summoned to meet the deputy culture minister, Lucia Borgonzoni, on April 20. He said he couldn’t understand the court’s “senseless” decision and wondered who was behind it.

Vittorio Sgarbi, an art critic and MP close to former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, said it was a good opportunity for the work to be transferred from a “vaguely clinical” place to where it was produced, arguing that the chapel could be enlarged to make room for “religious tourism”.

It is believed that Della Francesca made the painting in honor of her mother, Romana di Pierino, a native of Monterchi.

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