Pitti Palace, precious Bona Hall reopens to the public

Thanks to a major donation from American philanthropist Veronica Atkins, the Sala di Bona, decorated with an important cycle of frescoes by Bernardino Poccetti, reopens to the public at the Pitti Palace. The donation also enabled the restoration of the Valois tapestries and the purchase of a piano for the Sala Bianca.

A major opening for Florence ’s cultural heritage thanks to the important patronage of a philanthropist: at the Pitti Palace , the Sala di Bona, unknown to most and not included in the museum itinerary despite being directly communicating with the Sala Bianca, which is the usual venue for exhibitions and meetings, reopens to the public. In fact, the restoration of the room has just been completed, made possible by the support of the Friends of the Uffizi and the Friends of the Uffizi Galleries , and in particular by the generosity of U.S. philanthropist Veronica Atkins, who has earmarked more than one million euros for the museum.

The Sala di Bona, a grand Medici ceremonial space directly adjoining the Sala Bianca in the Pitti Palace, is decorated with a 540-square-meter pictorial cycle designed by the late Mannerist painter Bernardino Poccetti (Florence, 1548 - 1612), and has been reopened after a long and complex restoration carried out by theOpificio delle Pietre Dure of Florence. The fresco cycle covering the walls of the Sala di Bona illustrates some of the most important feats of Grand Duke Ferdinand I, which sealed his contribution to the political stability of Europe and the entry of the Grand Duchy of Tuscany into the ranks of the continent’s great powers. Depicted are military scenes (the conquest of the city of Bona in Algeria, hence the name of the room, and the battle of Prevesa, Greece), views of key places in Tuscan military policy (the port of Livorno), and other depictions: Cosimo I crowned by the virtues, the allegories of the Tyrrhenian Sea and the Arno River, the allegory of Abundance, Justice and Prudence. According to the image policy of the time, they presented the Medici magnificence to the distinguished visitors who stopped here before being admitted to the meeting with the Grand Duke. The Hall was in fact a kind of antechamber, significantly belonging to the so-called “apartments of foreign princes.”

The fresco cycle, the work of Bernardino Poccetti, the last representative of the great Florentine Mannerist decoration, was obscured by yellowish patinas resulting from previous restorations; the walls also showed extensive damage, caused by lesions, detachment of plasterwork and color falls. The Opificio’s intervention was able to recover the structural stability of the room and the balance and brightness of the paintings. To achieve this result required a series of meticulous thermographic and georadar surveys, photographic campaigns in the different bands of the electromagnetic spectrum, and chemical-physical analysis; these were followed by restoration operations, conducted under the direction of Cecilia Frosinini and Renata Pintus, by a pool of expert restorers, led by Mariarosa Lanfranchi and Paola Ilaria Mariotti.

Veronica Atkins’ donation also made possible the recovery of the Valois tapestries: in Florence for more than four centuries, and since last housed in the Pitti Palace, these eight Flemish-made tapestries, commissioned in 1575 by Catherine de’ Medici, widow of French King Henry II, are preparing to leave Tuscan soil after a long time, for a major exhibition in France scheduled for next year. This has been made possible thanks to the meticulous, lengthy restoration work just carried out by specialists Costanza Perrone Da Zara and Claudia Beyer under the supervision of Galleries Tapestries curator Alessandra Griffo: stitching, washing and reintegration have brought to light the details of the scenes, feasts, games and events at the court of Louis IX and Henry III of France recounted by these woven masterpieces. The restoration has also restored their robustness, necessary for them to be displayed.

Finally, one last intervention thanks to the donation of Veronica Atkins: from today, the new Yamaha CFX, the top of the range of world piano production and the only example present in Italy of the latest version of the model, updated to 2022, will be the “permanent guest” and protagonist of the concerts to be held in the White Room. Present on the most prestigious stages around the world, this concert grand has a very long history of success. So many masters have loved it; it is said that Sviatoslav Richter, one of the greatest pianists of the 20th century, always wanted one on his international tours. Designed as an extension of the performer’s hands and characterized by a resonance capable of faithfully conveying the performer’s set of emotions, feelings, and intentions, it can be considered the best concert grand piano today.

“The restorations of the Sala di Bona,” stresses Eike Schmidt, director of the Uffizi, “have returned to the public one of the most magnificently frescoed spaces in the Medici palace, and the concert piano will make it possible to integrate, much more often than in the past, visits to works of art with musical events. The Medici’s patronage-which extended to all artistic forms-is reflected today in the munificent gift that Veronica Atkins offers not only to the Uffizi and Palazzo Pitti, but to the city of Florence and the world.”

“Among the many supporters who accompany the vision of the Friends of the Uffizi and its American counterpart Friends of Uffizi,” says Maria Vittoria Rimbotti, president of Friends of the Uffizi and Friends of the Uffizi Gallery, "we are honored to count Veronica Atkins, a philanthropist and extraordinary woman who has made it her mission to support culture and art. In more than five years, the Uffizi Galleries have benefited from generous donations, made all the more precious by the object of attention: it is very difficult to find support for the restoration of works such as tapestries. For this we are all the more grateful to Veronica Atkins. Ms. Atkins represents an emblematic example of what patronage means, born in Tuscany in the Renaissance and now embraced in the United States in support of culture and art as indispensable forms of social growth. Philanthropy as a mission but also as a contribution to a heritage that belongs not to one country but to all humanity, a cultural bridge between two nations that seals their bond and friendship. So I thank Veronica Atkins for this extraordinary support and the Friends of Uffizi for their commitment, dedication and generosity."

“Art is very important to me,” Veronica Atkins maintains, “because I think humanity is improved by art. Without art we would simply be savages, as I see it. This is the main reason why I decided to fund these restorations. I love Italy very much, so it was natural for me to make a contribution to this country.”

Pitti Palace, precious Bona Hall reopens to the public
Pitti Palace, precious Bona Hall reopens to the public

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