Uffizi Diffusi, an exhibition in Poppi on the rescue of works during World War II

Uffizi Diffusi returns to Poppi with an exhibition, also immersive, that reconstructs the story of the rescue of hundreds of works of art during World War II.The exhibition is on view from July 20 to Jan. 28 at Poppi Castle.

The Uffizi Diffusi returns to Poppi after the 2022 exhibition dedicated to motherhood and the 2021 exhibition on Dante, and this time it does so with an exhibition, also immersive, that reconstructs the incredible story of the rescue of hundreds of works of art from destruction in World War II. The exhibition Michelangelo Kidnapped, Masterpieces in War from the Uffizi to Casentino, which can be visited from July 20 to January 28 at Poppi Castle, features loans from the Florentine museum and images of the most important paintings and sculptures sheltered in the Poppi Manor and Camaldoli Monastery between 1940 and 1944 (including the lost Mask of Faun attributed to Michelangelo), in fact tells the story of the works of art rescued in this corner of Casentino during World War II.

It starts with the case of the lost Mask of Faun attributed to Michelangelo, among the most mysterious and intriguing of the exhibition on the events that inextricably linked Casentino to the rescue of the Florentine artistic heritage during the conflict. The mask, stolen by the Nazis from the Conti Guidi Castle in Poppi and never found, had in fact been placed in safekeeping in the ancient manor house to escape the bombings, along with hundreds of masterpieces from the Uffizi and Florentine museums. The exhibition, as anticipated, at the same time also offers the opportunity for an immersive art experience, as high-definition images of those same works, including the lost Faun, return exceptionally to the castle’s interior.

This is the third time that Poppi has hosted an initiative of the plan to spread art in the territory launched two years ago by the Galleries: in 2021 it had hosted an exhibition on Dante and last year one dedicated to the theme of motherhood (both of these exhibitions were organized for Terre degli Uffizi, a project shared by the Florentine museum and the Fondazione CR Firenze as part of their respective Uffizi Diffusi and Piccoli Grandi Musei programs). And even earlier (2018), the exhibition Nel segno di Leonardo (In the Sign of Leonardo) was held within the walls of the manor house, starring the Tavola Doria lent by the Uffizi itself. This time the subject is the reconstruction of the events of the Tuscan artistic heritage during the war ; it is the result of careful archival and iconographic research that brings to light historical photos, never published documents, and period films. Indeed, in the very cases housed inside the former Scuderie, the Madonna of the Goldfinch by Raphael, the Birth of Venus by Botticelli, and Michelangelo’s Holy Family (Tondo Doni), among others, had been placed under protection. While the Camaldoli monastery housed masterpieces by Leonardo, Beato Angelico, Titian and Piero della Francesca.

The itinerary is organized in the castle courtyard and in the environment of the former stables on the ground floor, with works of art, period photographs and films, and archival and bibliographical documents. From the Uffizi comes Lorenzo Costa ’s Portrait of Giovanni II Bentivoglio (pictured below). It is an emblematic painting for the events surrounding it and for the exhibition itself: it was hospitalized at Poppi Castle from November 1940 to August 1944, when it was requisitioned and taken by the German army to South Tyrol; it returned to Florence in July 1945. A family connection also links the effigy specifically to Casentino. Also on loan is the plaster copy of Michelangelo’s Lost Faun (routinely displayed at the Uffizi, it was made in 2013 by the Istituto d’Arte di Porta Romana in Florence from a matrix of the19th century) as well as precious antique editions of the Life of Michelangelo and original documents from the Uffizi archives that reconstruct day by day the race against time to shelter the works of the Florentine museums, particularly those that precisely from the Uffizi and Palazzo Pitti left for Casentino.

Finally, the Uffizi Photographic Cabinet made available the spectacular photographic shots documenting the unprecedented removal of the works to the country shelters and the destruction to which they were allegedly subjected.

As for the immersive exhibition, it is set up in the rooms of the historic Rilliana Library. Visitors are engrossed by high-definition projections, on walls and floor, of a series of works of extraordinary fascination, with the possibility of discovering details not normally visible. Masterpieces that are inextricably linked to the Uffizi, such as Michelangelo’sTondo Doni, Raphael’s Madonna of the Goldfinch, Leonardo’sAnnunciation or Caravaggio’s Medusa, can be admired in high definition and with evocative animations that ideally recreate the “museum of rescued works” present in Poppi during the years of the conflict. It thus becomes possible to converse and interact with the works: the Mirror Room installation with its system of mirrors gives the sensation of “entering” the crates sheltered in the castle during the war, thus finding oneself face to face with the masterpieces of the famous Florentine museum.

Curator of the exhibition (as well as of the essays in the catalog together with Attilio Torri, Alberta Piroci, and Luca Grisolini) is Alessia Cecconi; the event is promoted by the municipality of Poppi in theas part of the Uffizi Diffusi project, with the collaboration of the Casa Siviero Museum, has the support and patronage of the Region of Tuscany, the contribution of the Fondazione CR Firenze and the Monte Falterona and Campigna Casentino Forests National Park, and is held in collaboration with the Union of Casentino Mountain Municipalities, the Casentino Ecomuseum and the Poppi Memory Bank.

“The Poppi exhibition,” says Uffizi Director Eike Schmidt, “is not only an opportunity to admire paintings and beautiful images, but above all touches on a burning topical issue: art, in fact, is among the main victims of conflicts around the world, because it represents the deepest idea of national identity. This is why the massive protection operations that involved our heritage during World War II are a symbol of resistance to the destruction and depredation that still today are among the most frequent and irremediable crimes of war.”

“The Uffizi Project Uffizi Diffusi on its fantastic journey through Tuscany stops at Poppi Castle, which, together with the Camaldoli Monastery and Villa Bocci in Soci between 1940 and 1944, became extraordinary strongholds of protection for works of art,” adds Eugenio Giani, president of the Region of Tuscany. "Poppi Castle was like a treasure chest, and today it reveals to all visitors to the exhibition Michelangelo Kidnapped - Masterpieces in War from the Uffizi to Casentino, the valuable function it played during World War II by telling the story of wartime protection, which remains a warning about the risks that artistic heritage always runs in certain circumstances. In this reconstruction of the vicissitudes of our treasures during the war, we realize that each of the works on display could have been gone. The exhibition illuminates, for the first time, their many stories and transforms their singularities into a great collective epic of passion, commitment and saved beauty."

“This exhibition itinerary, with the exciting search for lost works that have largely been found, allows us to be conquered by the heritage of Beauty that belongs to Man and that constitutes the only chance we have to save the world and, after all, each of us,” says Poppi Mayor Carlo Toni. “The exhibition is truly a unique and valuable opportunity to acquaint the community, and the many Italian and foreign tourists who visit the Castle and Casentino, with an emblematic story of safeguarding a universal heritage.”

“The theme of safeguarding artistic heritage during World War II has experienced increasing fortune,” explains curator Alessia Cecconi. “This exhibition has the particularity of reconstructing, thanks also to the incredible documentation of the Historical Archives of the Galleries and the Photographic Cabinet of the Uffizi, a fundamental segment of such events in one of the symbolic places of history. Fascination and significance of the installation also arise from the deep historical link between content and container, exhibition route and exhibition venue, Uffizi Galleries and Poppi Castle.”

The exhibition opens until Sept. 30 Monday through Thursday 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., Friday, Saturday and Sunday 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., Oct. 1 to Nov. 1 daily 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Nov. 2 to Jan. 28 only Friday, Saturday and Sunday 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Ticket €7 (concessions €5, free for residents and children under 5). For information 0575 520516 - info@castellopoppi.it.

Uffizi Diffusi, an exhibition in Poppi on the rescue of works during World War II
Uffizi Diffusi, an exhibition in Poppi on the rescue of works during World War II

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