Sicily, heated controversy over Antonello da Messina's delicate Annunciation carried by arms

Strong controversy in Sicily over the displacement of Antonello da Messina's delicate Annunciation, which was transported out of Palazzo Bellomo ... by arm.

It was not supposed to leave for Palermo, where it would have joined the other works by Antonello da Messina (Messina, 1430 - 1479) brought together for the monographic exhibition dedicated to the Sicilian artist and running at Palazzo Abatellis from Dec. 14, 2018 to Feb. 10, 2019: in the end, however, theAnnunciation, a 1474 masterpiece preserved in Syracuse at Palazzo Bellomo, left for the regional capital despite strong resistance from the city, which did not want to deprive itself of its work (and in recent days there had even been a protest garrison in front of Palazzo Bellomo). It is in fact an extremely delicate work: “traumatically transferred from the panel to the canvas due to the absolute structural inconsistency of the wooden support, corroded by moisture, subjected to continuous maintenance and restoration,” art historian Paolo Giansiracusa explained in recent days to the daily newspaper La Sicilia, “it is in precarious condition because of the damage suffered over time. To defend it, it has been placed in a glass case. The Region itself issued a decree of immovability in 2013, which in addition to Antonello’s masterpiece includes other valuable works.” And in fact, the list of Sicilian works that should not leave their museums (it consists of 23 objects) was drawn up five years ago by Mariarita Sgarlata, now a councilor at MiBAC and at the time a regional councillor for culture.

In short: to borrow a comparison by Giansiracusa, who is a professor of art history at the faculty of architecture at the University of Catania and was dean of the Academy of Fine Arts in Syracuse, taking the painting out of its museum is like transporting a sick person out of the hospital. Indeed, it is a battered masterpiece (and moreover, with large gaps on almost the entire pictorial surface, especially in the lower portion), which, moreover, was restored in 2009, after being loaned to the major Antonello exhibition held in 2006 in Rome at the Scuderie del Quirinale. Yet in the end the work still left for the capital. But it was precisely on the transport that heated controversy was focused: a video posted Wednesday evening by Paolo Giansiracusa himself on his Facebook profile captures the moment when the work leaves Palazzo Bellomo, carried by the arms of some employees on the journey from the exit of the museum to the armored vehicle that would take it to Palermo. And this, Giansiracusa complains, despite the fact that the regional councillor for culture, Sebastiano Tusa, had guaranteed a modern and secure security device.

“So they took Antonello with them,” Giansiracusa commented. “Ruzzoloni ruzzoloni in the rain ... other than suspension structures and microclimatic guarantees.” He concluded with an ironic plea, “Share en masse so Tusa verifies the quality of his delicate methods.” And anger immediately erupted on social media: some noted that “not even the truck near the door they put,” others joking that “not even an Ikea closet is transported like that,” others still worried that the stresses suffered during the transfer may have damaged the painting.

Now, the “Nessuno tocchi Antonello” Committee, which was formed precisely to prevent the transfer of theAnnunciation, has filed a complaint with the Carabinieri of the Cultural Heritage Protection Unit, who will assess all the details of the operation.

Pictured: a moment of the transport (from video by Paolo Giansiracusa).

Sicily, heated controversy over Antonello da Messina's delicate Annunciation carried by arms
Sicily, heated controversy over Antonello da Messina's delicate Annunciation carried by arms

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