It is the task of the Department to study the works of the collection within its competence, with particular attention to the works in restoration and the layouts in the Pinacoteca, in Rooms I and II, in which the medieval works are displayed, and in Room XVIII, dedicated to Icons. Temporary exhibitions and arrangements, educational updates, conferences and study days are part of the Department’s activities.
With the aim of enhancing awareness of the value of this artistic heritage, in recent years special attention has been dedicated to the context and provenance of works of art, with reference to the study exchanges and collaboration with scientific entities in the area. A significant example is provided by the restoration of the predella with Stories of Saint Stephen by Bernardo Daddi, which was the subject of a scientific study with a view to its temporary exhibition in its original context, in Prato, bringing it together with the altarpiece which originally included a double predella on the occasion of the exhibition Legati da una cintola. L’Assunta di Bernardo Daddi e l’identità di una città (Bound by a girdle. Bernardo Daddi’s Assumption and the identity of a city) (08.9.2017 to 25.2.2018). With the same criterion two precious works from Montefalco, which then passed into the Vatican Collections, were restored and studied: the dossal with Crucifixion and stories of Saint Biagio and Saint Catherine, formerly in the chapel of Santa Croce, attributed to the so-called First Master of the Blessed Clare of Montefalco and the polyptych with the Crucifixion and stories of the Passion, formerly in the church of Saint Francis, attributed to the Master of Fossa. Indeed, the two works were returned to the church-museum of Saint Francis in Montefalco on the occasion of the exhibition Capolavori del Trecento. Il cantiere di Giotto, Spoleto e l’Appennino (Masterpieces of the Fourteenth Century: the workshop of Giotto, Spoleto and the Apennines) (24.6 to 4.11. 2018); the novelties that emerged regarding the date and the commission were included in the catalogue.
Among the restorations carried out in recent years, of particular importance was that of Vitale da Bologna’s Madonna dei Battuti, executed by the artist around 1350 for the Oratory of the Confraternity of the “Battuti Bianchi” in Ferrara, which brought to light the original appearance of the panel, significantly altered by previous repaintings (2013-2014).
The recovery of the fragments of the mosaic frieze of the portico of the no longer existing ancient façade of Saint John Lateran (late twelfth to early thirteenth century), restored at the Stone Materials Restoration Laboratory, was the subject of a published in-depth study and a virtual reconstruction edited by Anna Maria de Strobel.
The Department assisted the Directorate in overseeing the restoration of the Salus Populi Romani, the famous image of the Madonna and Child central to Marian devotion in the Basilica of Saint Mary Major; the conservation intervention carried out by the Painting and Wood Materials Restoration Laboratory in close synergy with the Diagnostic Laboratory for Conservation and Restoration (2017-2018) and supported by an in-depth historical and artistic research has achieved surprising results on the pictorial quality of the icon and regarding its so-far uncertain date, currently being published by Guido Cornini.
Ample space is devoted to the mystical and hagiographic sources of the medieval paintings in the Pinacoteca, with particular attention to the emotional relationship between believer, work of art, client and artist in the text by A. Breda, Passion, Devotion, Compassion. Spirituality and ‘empathetic art’ in Europe in the XIV-XVI centuries in the paintings of the Vatican collections published in 2016 by the Edizioni Musei Vaticani.