The Friends of Florence Give St. Francis a Facelift

THE DAILY PIC: A 14th-century crucifix was restored thanks to the Friends.


THE DAILY PIC (#1383): This lovely little image of St. Francis of Assisi is a detail from a crucifix painted in about 1320 by an Italian artist known as the Master of Figline. It hangs above the altar of the great Franciscan church of Santa Croce in Florence, where it was lovingly restored thanks to Friends of Florence,  a little-known American organization led by the impressively named Contessa Simonetta Brandolini d’Adda. The Friends have fundraised for restoration work on the big names of the Renaissance – Botticelli’s Primavera; Michelangelo’s David – but I’m especially keen on the help they’ve given to the also-rans such as our Master.

Over the last couple of days, the Contessa has also been involved in an Aspen Institute symposium called “Forever Changing the World: Saint Francis of Assisi and Giotto”, which is the occasion for today’s Pic. I assume the symposium’s scholars have been discussing one of the Franciscans’ most important contributions to our world: Story-telling paintings and the realism they require – and that, one way or another, fed into all European art made since the Middle Ages, sacred or secular.

Could the Franciscans have been so keen on pictures that tell stories about people in far-away places because St. Francis himself took care to live a life that could be – had to be – told as a story about the acts of one particular guy in one particular place? He wrote his own saint’s life, by living it. That “autohagiography” left his heirs primed to think in terms of settings and storylines.

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