Antonello's Annunciation, Sgarbi: Omertous silence when he went to Rovereto. There was actually harsh criticism

Sgarbi spoke on the controversy about Antonello's Annunciation, claiming that there was silence when it was brought to Rovereto. But there was criticism even then.

There is no end to the controversy over the relocation of theAnnunciation, the masterpiece by Antonello da Messina (Messina, 1430 - 1479) that left its home, the Palazzo Bellomo museum in Syracuse, to be transferred to Palermo and displayed at the exhibition organized as part of the events of the Italian capital of culture 2018. In recent days, strong criticism had been raised over the arm-transportation of the painting, a delicate panel transported on canvas, about which several experts (starting with Professor Paolo Giansiracusa, professor of art history at the University of Catania) had raised doubts about the appropriateness of subjecting it to handling, precisely because of its state of preservation. The protests had been answered by the regional councillor for culture, Sebastiano Tusa, saying that the work would not run any risk. The painting, moreover, was declared immovable in 2013 by a decree issued by the Region of Sicily.

Art critic and historian Vittorio Sgarbi, who visited the Antonello exhibition in Palermo, also spoke on the issue. In an interview with local television station Onda Tv, Sgarbi emphasized the relevance of the event in the context of the Italian capital of culture, and especially pointed out how, according to him, no one would have protested when theAnnunciation, in 2013, left Syracuse to leave for Rovereto, where, at MART, another monographic exhibition on Antonello da Messina was set up.

“It is a canvas,” Sgarbi said, “so it has no conservation problems: it was a panel and was transported on canvas. Once it is established that it does not suffer health damage, the controversy becomes a parochial one, which would make sense in any year and in any condition, but not in the year of the Italian capital of culture that is linked to the name of Palermo. Palermo is Sicily, Palermo is Italy, Antonello and Italy, so the controversy is not understood. Otherwise we should ask ourselves not why he already went to the Quirinale to the Scuderie, not why he already went to the natural venue which is Palazzolo Acreide, not why he he already went without protest from any of these plaintiffs to San Cataldo, which is very far from any Antonello site, but to Rovereto, in the autonomous region of Trentino Alto Adige: it left for an exhibition made by director Collu and left without any problem, six or seven years ago. No one protested about a departure from the autonomous region of Sicily to the autonomous region of Trentino. So what relationship Antonello had with Rovereto Giansiracusa or some other protestor who clumsily insulted Tusa has to tell me. Of course, if there had not been this controversy, the organization could have, in addition to the masterpieces from Sibiu, the Uffizi and Pavia, also the Saint Jerome, so that one will be good to come. [...] How many go to the Bellomo Museum? Then it is clear that each city must defend its masterpieces and it is right that it should have them, but not by putting on a senseless war in the name of who knows what principles when the painting went to Rovereto in the omertous silence of all those who are talking nonsense today.”

In fact, even in 2013, at the time of the Rovereto exhibition, there were protests about the move. In particular, a very harsh voice was that of Fabio Granata, former Fdi deputy and vice president of the Sicilian region between 2000 and 2001, and founder in 2013 of the Green Italia environmental movement. In recent days he has made it known that he does not agree with the idea of bringing theAnnunciation to Palermo, and in 2013 he declared, in an article published in the daily newspaper La Sicilia on October 5, 2013, that “the Syracuse Annunciation is absolutely immovable because of the delicate restoration it been the protagonist,” and had branded the idea of lending it to Rovereto as an “insane choice” and an “authentic folly tinged with provincialism” that would “jeopardize the integrity of the works” (in addition to theAnnunciation, in fact, the Madonna and Child conserved at the Regional Museum of Messina, theAnnunciata at Palazzo Abatellis, and the San Girolamo, also at Palazzo Abatellis, would also leave for Trentino). Initially the loan was even blocked by the then governor of Sicily, Rosario Crocetta, but in the end the works left for Rovereto anyway, and certainly not amid general silence.

Even Paolo Giansiracusa himself, at the time town planning councilor of the City of Syracuse, had expressed his opposition to the move. In an interview published in the local newspaper La Civetta di Minerva onOctober 11, 2013, he had advanced the same objections as today. “It is necessary to take note of the state the painting is in: a comatose state,” he had stated then. “The work has undergone several restorations, the pictorial film has been lost over time, and in the 1920s it underwent a traumatic transfer from panel to canvas. If one were to compare the Annunciation to a person one would have to assert that its state is, indeed, comatose: it lives in a glass case and should never be touched.” And he had added that “there is no respect for history” and that “we must protect our works of art to ensure their enjoyment by those who will come after us.” Still, the operation was also being evaluated from another point of view: “the Bellomo museum,” Giansiracusa pointed out at the time, “has very few works of high value, of a certain stature. There is only one masterpiece like the Annunciation, there are not ten others: it would be like the Louvre depriving itself of the Mona Lisa, something unthinkable. We are preventing tourists-the ones who visit Syracuse during the Christmas vacations, the educated ones who crave our art-from admiring the museum’s main element.”

Pictured: Antonello da Messina, Annunciation (1474; oil on panel transported on canvas, 180 x 180 cm; Syracuse, Palazzo Bellomo)

Antonello's Annunciation, Sgarbi: Omertous silence when he went to Rovereto. There was actually harsh criticism
Antonello's Annunciation, Sgarbi: Omertous silence when he went to Rovereto. There was actually harsh criticism