Piero della Francesca and the Augustinian Polyptych Reunited exhibition. Image coutesy of the Poldi Pezzoli museum in Milan

Piero della Francesca altarpiece reassembled after 450 years

Culture News

After 450 years, the long-dispersed surviving panels of the Piero della Francesca Augustinian altarpiece have been meticulously reassembled. They offer a potential resolution to one of art history’s enduring enigmas.

Crafted by the renowned early Italian Renaissance master specifically for the church of the Augustinians at Borgo San Sepolcro (now Sansepolcro), the celebrated polyptych originally comprised 30 panels. The majority of the panels have vanished over time.

The eight known components of this masterpiece had been scattered across various locations since its disassembly at the end of the 16th century. Despite numerous attempts by museums to reunite the panels over the years, previous endeavours proved futile. However, a breakthrough occurred with the recent initiative by the Poldi Pezzoli Museum in Milan. Through collaborative efforts and loans from institutions in the UK, US, and Portugal, the museum successfully united the eight known panels.

“Piero della Francesca and the Augustinian Polyptych Reunited” exhibition

This remarkable reunion, culminating in the exhibition titled “Piero della Francesca and the Augustinian Polyptych Reunited,” marks a historic milestone in art restoration. Alessandra Quarto, the director of the Poldi Pezzoli Museum, hailed the achievement as “the reunion of the century.”

The exhibition features four sizable panels adorned with saints against a vivid blue backdrop, with a conspicuous void indicating the absence of the central missing panel, long shrouded in mystery.

Machtelt Brüggen Israëls, the curator of the exhibition, was keen to highlight that it marks the first time in over four centuries that these surviving fragments of Piero della Francesca’s grand polyptych have been exhibited together.

Moreover, the effort to reunite the panels has provided invaluable research opportunities, allowing for diagnostic investigations into the artwork. Israëls revealed that these examinations uncovered previously unknown details, shedding light on Piero della Francesca’s technique and artistic process.

Using advanced imaging technologies such as stereo microscopes, researchers made intriguing discoveries, including the presence of a previously unseen foot in one panel, suggesting it may belong to the Virgin Mary in a poignant scene of receiving the crown from Christ.

Through meticulous restoration and scholarly inquiry, this groundbreaking exhibition not only reunites scattered masterpieces but also deepens our understanding of Piero della Francesca’s artistic genius, offering new insights into one of the Renaissance’s most elusive treasures.

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