The In­no­cents of Florence

Timeless Travels Magazine - - CONTENTS -

The con­ser­va­tion project, ex­e­cuted by Elis­a­beth Wicks and Ni­co­letta Fon­tani, was per­son­ally funded by Ad­vanc­ing Women Artists (AWA) founder Jane For­tune, who de­cided to sup­port this work by Domenico de Miche­lino (de­spite be­ing a male artist). The project led the restora­tion team on a jour­ney to un­cover the story of the city’s for­got­ten chil­dren, and the women who saved them.

The film’s premise

It is 1410 and there is a huge so­cial prob­lem in Florence. Ba­bies are aban­doned and dy­ing at an alarm­ing rate. To solve the prob­lem Florence’s hu­man­ists or­gan­ise and build a hos­pice for ba­bies to as­sist young moth­ers. To cel­e­brate the com­ple­tion of the new build­ing in 1446, they com­mis­sion a paint­ing to act as their ‘poster’, logo and sym­bol for the new In­sti­tute.

Flash for­ward 600 years to 2013, the very same paint­ing sits in a mu­seum within the orig­i­nal build­ing. Two women, an Amer­i­can and an Ital­ian, are tasked with the restora­tion of the work due to be dis­played af­ter a ren­o­va­tion and re­open­ing of the mu­seum.

The ‘back­story’

The con­ser­va­tion Madonna of the

In­no­cents was com­mis­sioned af­ter Jane For­tune and El­iz­a­beth Wicks be­came cu­ri­ous about the young Madonna fig­ure de­picted in The In­no­centi’s work. They were par­tic­u­larly in­trigued by her facial ex­pres­sion. It seemed she was hid­ing a se­cret. The ‘hunch’ these women had that day in the mu­seum led to what turned out to be the “great­est dis­cov­ery of my ca­reer,” says Wicks, who with fel­low con­ser­va­tor Ni­co­letta Fon­tani, spent close to 30 months pre­par­ing the work for dis­play in the In­no­centi, which boasts one of the rarest col­lec­tions of chil­dren’s his­tory in the world.

Bat­tis­tella and his quest

The film took a full five years to com­plete and in the 90-minute fea­ture-length doc­u­men­tary film, Bat­tis­tella ex­plores the themes of art, moth­er­hood, Florentine hu­man­ism and how a pro­gres­sive-think­ing Re­nais­sance so­ci­ety cre­ated one of the first chil­dren’s hos­pi­tals in the world.

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