Uffizi Diffusi brings Nicolas Froment's Triptych home after nearly 200 years

The altarpiece depicting the Stories of Lazarus, Martha and Mary by 15th-century French painter Nicolas Froment, now in the Uffizi collection, returns to its church, that of the Bosco ai Frati monastery in San Piero a Sieve (Florence).

After nearly two hundred years, the altarpiece depicting the Stories of Lazarus, Martha and Mary that once stood in the church of the Bosco ai Frati monastery in San Piero a Sieve (Florence) and is now housed in the Uffizi collections, is returning ’home’ thanks to Uffizi Diffusi. The Triptych, created by the 15th-century French painter Nicolas Froment (Uzés, c. 1430 - Avignon, 1486) and considered a great Renaissance masterpiece, was removed from the Bosco ai Frati convent (San Piero a Sieve) with the Napoleonic suppressions and in, 1841, was brought to the Gallery of Statues and Paintings.

Now, as part of Terre degli Uffizi, an exhibition program of Gallerie degli Uffizi and Fondazione CR Firenze, within their respective projects Uffizi Diffusi and Piccoli Grandi Musei, from June 1 to November 6, it will be the protagonist of an exhibition organized in the very place of worship that had been its ’home’ for so long.

The altarpiece is dated 1461 and signed on the doors by Nicolas Froment, an artist whose activity is documented between northern France and Provence from 1461 to 1483. The Triptych had been commissioned by Bishop Francesco Coppini (Prato, 1402 - Rome, 1464) in the course of his diplomatic missions abroad: the patron, identified by the coat of arms, is depicted praying before the Virgin on the back of one of the doors. In the center is depicted Jesus resurrecting Lazarus by uttering the words “Lazare veni foras,” written in gold lettering. The risen man, his body now decomposing, rises from the tomb, under the gaze of his sisters Martha and Mary, whose faces are wet with tears. Preceding the miracle is the scene in which Martha goes to meet Jesus to warn him of her brother’s death, illustrated in the left door. In the other leaf, Mary pays homage to Jesus by anointing his feet with a fragrant balm. Influenced by Flemish painting, Nicolas Froment tends to characterize the physiognomies, which almost take on the appearance of caricatures.

The meticulous depiction of robes, objects, and curious details such as the fly on the set table transform the sacred tale into a continuous source of wonder; the landscapes in the background evoke the fairy-tale world of 15th-century northern European courts. In the summer of the same year that the work was made, Coppini was recalled to Rome by the pope on charges of political offenses and simony. Convicted, he was stripped of his titles and his property confiscated. The painting thus came into the possession of the Medici family and was then given to the Franciscan friars of Bosco ai Frati, where it remained until the suppression of the convent in Napoleonic times. At the Uffizi it arrived in 1841.

The Triptych was historically located in the convent’s church, where until the early 19th century there was also a wooden Crucifix of Donatello’s scope, now on display in the same room where the exhibition is set up. Many treasures were born for this place, whose foundation dates back to the 7th century. The fortune of the convent is also due to Cosimo the Elder de’ Medici, who bought the entire area on which the religious complex and the adjacent forest still stands today, assuming its patronage and the direction of the modernization work, which he entrusted to the architect Michelozzo.

The ongoing exhibition from today is organized by the Unione Montana dei Comuni del Mugello in collaboration with the Municipality of Scarperia/San Piero a Sieve and the Convent of Bosco ai Frati itself.

The statements

“The triptych with the Resurrection of Lazarus was itself the subject of a resurrection, so to speak, thanks to the restoration a few years ago generously funded by the Friends of the Uffizi. Soon after an exhibition at the Uffizi documenting its recovery, due to ongoing work at the museum and pending its new display, the painting had returned to storage. The exhibition now at Bosco ai Frati is an opportunity for many to see the restored work for the first time, then briefly displayed and not yet included in the Florentine museum’s itinerary. The fact that the Medici-certainly Cosimo Pater Patriae-had promptly hoarded it after the commissioner’s fall from grace is further evidence of the taste for Nordic painting that was very early in Florence,” says Uffizi Galleries director Eike Schmidt.

“This is the fourth stop on this fascinating journey to discover or rediscover lesser-known treasures in our area. And it is a real surprise to visit this convent nestled among the turkey oaks, among the oldest in Tuscany and very dear to Cosimo il Vecchio. In its thousand-year history it has seen as many as five popes pass through, and within these walls Donatello and Angelico created some of their masterpieces there. The return of the altarpiece rekindles the spotlight on this hidden jewel that, thanks to ’Terre degli Uffizi,’ we are sure will fascinate and surprise those who visit this oasis of silence, prayer and astonishing beauty,” says CR Florence Foundation President Luigi Salvadori.

“Mugello is a territory rich in works of art, rich in history, intertwined with the names of the artists who made Florence and Tuscany great. Today, an important work returns here as part of an initiative that opens the doors of the treasures that the Uffizi houses to the territory. Art returning to where it has been, where it was born, art networking, art as the glue of Tuscany and as territorial and tourism development. Thank you to the Fondazione CR Firenze, thank you to the Uffizi, thank you to the Church Convent and Museum of San Bonaventura in Bosco ai Frati that hosts us, for allowing this to happen. We hope this will be the first of a series of events of this kind that our territory is bidding to host as of now. In the meantime, the invitation is not to miss the opportunity to admire Froment’s triptych, which returns to the rooms that first hosted it,” says President of the Unione Montana Comuni del Mugello Stefano Passiatore.

“It is important for us to host this exhibition in the territory because it reminds us that it is possible for us to enjoy beauty and it is something we can only do when we live in peace and democracy, and given the contexts close to us this is not a given. Returning to a place such as the Convent of St. Bonaventure in Bosco ai Frati, where the Franciscans worked, also gives us the opportunity for a moment of general reflection that from this important exhibition of the Uffizi Gallery, made a few days after the Georgofili massacre, should communicate our customs, way of life, democracy and beauty recognizing the values and rights of the civil community,” says Scarperia and San Piero Mayor Federico Ignesti.

“This is the original place to which it was donated and where it has remained for over three hundred years. It is part of an ancient history. Today it is repurposed next to Donatello’s Christ, in an evocative setting, recreating the setting desired by the de’ Medici family. A dream come true,” says OFM Tuscany contact person for the Bosco ai Frati museum Gianni Frilli.

Uffizi Diffusi brings Nicolas Froment's Triptych home after nearly 200 years
Uffizi Diffusi brings Nicolas Froment's Triptych home after nearly 200 years

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