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Museo del Prado announces restoration of its Annunciation by Fra Angelico
L to R: Miguel Falomir, Director of the Museo del Prado; Simonetta Brandolini d’Adda, President of Friends of Florence; and Christina Simmons, Executive Director of American Friends of the Prado Museum with The Annunciation (mid-1420s) by Fra Angelico. © Museo del Prado.

MADRID.- A generous contribution of €150,000 ($171,000) to the Museo del Prado, made equally by Friends of Florence and American Friends of the Prado Museum, will go towards restoring The Annunciation by Fra Angelico and other works not held at the Prado Museum to be included in a major exhibition slated for the coming year, Fra Angelico and the Rise of the Florentine Renaissance. The exhibition is part of the Prado’s Bicentenary celebration in 2019.

Miguel Falomir, Director of the Museo del Prado, Simonetta Brandolini d’Adda, President of Friends of Florence, and Christina Simmons, Executive Director of American Friends of the Prado Museum, signed a partnership agreement last Wednesday at the Prado in Madrid, Spain.

On view from May 28–September 15, 2019, the exhibition of some 40 pieces is curated by Carl Brandon Strehlke, curator emeritus at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. The exhibition’s centerpiece, The Annunciation, was painted by Fra Angelico in the mid-1420s, and is considered the first Florentine altarpiece in the Renaissance style, using perspective to organize space and forsaking Gothic archways in favor of more rectangular shapes, in line with the aesthetic implemented by the architect Brunelleschi in his innovative approach to the churches of San Lorenzo and the Santo Spirito.

The main purpose of restoring the work is to recover the rich, vivid colors and intense light that imbue the scene. Both are characteristic elements both of this piece and of the artist's work in general but, over time, have been obscured under layers of dirt and pollution accruing on the surface. The intervention will also eliminate abundant layers of paint applied latterly to the intersection between two of the four wooden panels on which the work is painted. Over the years, the wooden backing developed structural problems as two of its panels separated, opening a crack running through the figure of the angel and causing layers of paintwork to be lost. Several attempts had been made to repair the damage and preserve the piece, the most recent in being 1943. However, in addition to restoring losses on either sides of the seam, these attempts had also painted over extensive areas of the original work. Over the years, these new layers deteriorated badly, ultimately manifesting as blemishes that severely affect the quality of the piece.

The exhibition will also include other Florentine works being restored in Italy, also thanks to the generosity of Friends of Florence and American Friends of the Prado Museum. These will include Virgin and Child by Michele da Firenze, currently housed in the Museo Nazionale del Bargello; Donatello's terracotta Virgin and Child, also featuring two angels and two prophets and owned by the Museo di Palazzo Pretorio; and Gherardo Starnina's Trinity, from the Chiaramonte Bordonaro collection.

The exhibition will analyze the beginnings of the Florentine Renaissance in 1420-1430, focussing on Fra Angelico (Guido di Pietro da Muguello, 1395/1400-1455). Fra Angelico is considered one of the great Renaissance masters having produced some of the major artistic achievements of the time and place, along with painters Masaccio, Masolino, Uccello and Filippo Lippi, sculptors Ghiberti, Donatello and Nanni di Banco, and the architect Brunelleschi.

The Annunciation will be a central work in the exhibition, accompanied by another two of Fra Angelico's works recently added to the Prado’s collection: The Funeral of Saint Anthony Abbott, and The Virgin of the Pomegranate, both from the Duke of Alba's collection, the former donated and the latter purchased.

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