Fra Angelico’s The Madonna of Pontassieve

Venice, Palazzo Cini. La Galleria

From 17 June the Palazzo Cini Gallery at San Vio will host the masterpiece from the Galleria degli Uffizi

From 17 June to 28 September 2015 the Palazzo Cini Gallery at San Vio, the museum house that was once Vittorio Cini’s home, welcomes another illustrious guest: The Madonna of Pontassieve byFra Angelico (Vicchio di Mugello, c. 1395 – Rome, 1455), a masterpiece from the Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence. On Wednesday 17 June at 5.30 pm, the “Art Conversations”, led by the art historian Ada Labriola and entitled Fra Angelico, painter of light. The Madonna of Pontassieve, will focus on the painting and so introduce the new guest to the public in the Palazzo Cini (admission included in the price of the entrance ticket to the Gallery, booking required by email to palazzocini@cini.it).


In 2015 A Guest at the Palace will continue thanks to significant collaboration with major Italian and foreign institutions. The initiative involves the Gallery in periodically hosting a special guest art work with the idea of creating a dialogue with the works in the permanent collection, based on an interplay of visual relations and content. The first “guest” this year is the celebrated Madonna of Pontassieve by Fra Beato Angelico (c. 1435), from the Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence. The painting dates from the last years of the artist’s career and was probably the central panel in a polyptych in a church in the Tuscan town of Pontassieve.


The painting will be unveiled in the Palazzo Cini on 17 June 2015 to coincide with the opening of the exhibition Piero di Cosimo. Pittore “fiorentino” eccentrico tra rinascimento e maniera(Florence, 23 June – 27 September 2015), which will feature two paintings by Piero di Cosimo normally on display in the Palazzo Cini Gallery: The Holy Family with Young St John and The Madonna and Child with Angels (recently shown in the exhibition Piero di Cosimo: The Poetry of Painting in Renaissance Florence at the National Gallery of Art, Washington).

 Fra Angelico was commissioned to paint the Madonna and Child with Angels in 1435 by six members of a wealthy Florentine family, the Filicaia, who also were patrons of the church of San Michele in Pontassieve. In all likelihood the painting was the central section of a polyptych that once stood on the high altar. The idea that on the right of the Virgin, in one of the two lost panels, there was an image of Saint Michael, the patron saint of the church, is corroborated by the presence on the edge of the conserved panel of the tip of a sword treated with silver leaf, as revealed by the most recent restoration.

This late work by Fra Angelico long remained in obscurity due to its peripheral location and the early dismemberment of the polyptych, probably before the mid-17th century. Only in 1909 was it dealt with for the first time in a scholarly context by Giovanni Poggi, who put forward the attribution to the Dominican painter, subsequently unanimously accepted. The interest aroused by the painting, thanks also to exhibitions in London and Florence in the 1930s, led to further studies and contributed to the decision to move it to the Uffizi in 1949. Since then the painting has been the subject of continuous scholarly attention. In 2010 a Pontassieve exhibition entirely dedicated to the work presented new findings, especially concerning the commission. The curator of that exhibition was Ada Labriola, and she is the expert who will illustrate the work to the public on Wednesday 17 June at 5.30 pm in an Art Conversation at thePalazzo Cini.