Caravaggio painting of Manfredi, devastated in Georgofili mafia massacre, returns to Uffizi

Bartolomeo Manfredi's Card Players, devastated during the 1993 Georgofili Mafia bombing, has been restored and returns to the Uffizi.

The painting The Card Players, a Caravaggio masterpiece by Bartolomeo Manfredi (Ostiano, 1582 - Rome, 1622), has been restored and can now return to the Uffizi. The work had been devastated on May 27, 1993, during the Via dei Georgofili massacre in Florence, which struck the Torre dei Pulci, home of the Georgofili Academy, causing the death of five innocent people and the total or partial destruction of several works of art housed in the Uffizi: Manfredi’s painting was hanging right in front of the window whose glass was shattered by the bomb. Immediately after the bombing, the work was secured and covered with tissue paper and so it remained for 24 years.

Thanks to new technologies, restorer Daniela Lippi and a crowdfunding campaign that raised the sum of 26,500 euros (the goal was 22,200) now the painting, which depicts a group of young men, sitting in an inn around a wooden table, playing cards, has been reassembled, albeit partially. In fact, the work had shattered and it was necessary to put the pieces back together, as if it were a large jigsaw puzzle. Many were lost forever, so the public will see the work with several dark areas.The restoration, however, has a very high symbolic value, not least because The Card Players was among the works that were thought to be lost forever. It took a year of work and a great deal of effort to reach this result, made possible thanks to a fundraiser for the restoration entitled “Culture against Terror” and promoted in June 2017 by Corriere Fiorentino, Gallerie degli Uffizi and Ubi Banca.

Eike Schmidt, director of the Uffizi Galleries, commented, “I am grateful that so many people have grasped the importance of a gesture that is as symbolic as it is strong, as strong is the message of civilization in response to the cowardice of terrorism.”
Letizia Moratti and Andrea Moltrasio, chairmen of Ubi Banca’s Management Board and Supervisory Board, respectively, emphasized, “Ubi Banca is particularly pleased to have contributed to the crowdfunding that, with the contributions of dozens of citizens and businesses, has made it possible to return Bartolomeo Manfredi’s ’The Card Players’ to the Uffizi.”

The restoration will be unveiled on Saturday, May 26, on the 25th anniversary of the Georgofili massacre, in the Salone dei Cinquecento in Palazzo Vecchio in the presence of the mayor of Florence, Dario Nardella, the director of Corriere Fiorentino, Paolo Ermini, the director of the Uffizi Galleries, Eike Schmidt, restorer Daniela Lippi, and art historian and Uffizi official Maria Matilde Simari.

The painting will then be on public display in the Uffizi’sVasari auditorium, which was exceptionally opened after the procession moved from the Palazzo Vecchio to the site of the attack at 1:04 a.m. Sunday night. The painting will remain on display throughout the following week, while upon completion of the work on the Vasari Corridor, it will return to the location where it was on the night of the bombing.

Pictured is Manfredi’s painting (1618; oil on canvas, 130 x 191.5 cm; Florence, Uffizi Gallery) before the bombing.

Caravaggio painting of Manfredi, devastated in Georgofili mafia massacre, returns to Uffizi
Caravaggio painting of Manfredi, devastated in Georgofili mafia massacre, returns to Uffizi

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