Uffizi, Scientific Committee resigns en bloc: protest against loan of Raphael's Leo X to Rome exhibition

Clamor at Uffizi: museum's scientific committee resigns en bloc in protest against loan of Raphael's portrait of Leo X to Rome exhibition.

Clamor at the Uffizi: the members of the scientific committee (Donata Levi, Tomaso Montanari, Fabrizio Moretti, Claudio Pizzorusso) have resigned en bloc in protest against the loan of Raphael ’s Portrait of Leo X to the major exhibition on the Urbino that will open March 5 at the Scuderie del Quirinale. The four motivated their gesture in an open letter: according to it, the committee had included the painting in a list of immovable works. “The Scientific Committee of the Uffizi Galleries,” the missive reads, “had been engaged for months in drawing up two lists of immovable works, one for those belonging to the main fund of the various museums of the Galleries, the other for those fragile on the conservation level. At its meeting on October 21, the Committee had approved, at the suggestion of Director Schmidt, an initial list of 23 works that were immovable by membership in the main collection (making its own the one drawn up in 2009 by previous director Antonio Natali). The list includes at No. 19 Raphael’s portrait of Leo X with Cardinals. The minutes of the Oct. 21 meeting read: ’The 2009 list prepared by the Uffizi is approved with the obligation to abide by it considering the works contained therein to be absolutely immovable for reasons of identity,’ an obligation that of course refers to the director’s decisions and applies precisely ’absolutely,’ that is, also to loans within Italian territory.”

The committee, the text continues, “unanimously found that the list approved two months earlier could only be adhered to. In fact, the last line of the minutes reads thus: ’The denial of the Leone X remains, despite the reasons given by the Director.’ Today we learned from the press that, contrary to what was decided at the Committee meeting on December 9, the painting was granted on loan and is already at the exhibition venue in Rome.”

The loan was therefore not welcomed: “We are perfectly aware of the advisory function of the Committee,” the letter goes on to say, “but we note that keeping ourselves busy for months discussing lists that remain blatantly unimplemented defeats the very existence of the Committee. Therefore, today we find ourselves forced to take note of the situation and therefore resign. We think that the collective resignation of the Committee of the most important Italian museum makes it inescapable to rethink and redefine the role of the Scientific Committees in the governance of autonomous museums.”

The response of director Eike D. Schmidt (who remains, of course, the only current member of the Scientific Committee), according to whom the immovable works are considered such but only in regard to a possible exit from Italy: “the list of immovable works,” he let it be known, “was drawn up in clear response to Article 66 paragraph 2 of the Cultural Heritage Code, which regulates the export of artistic goods outside the territory a national. Rome is not only located within Italy, but is its capital.” Moreover, the director went on to say, “the great exhibition on Raphael could not do without the Leo X. It is a masterpiece that by the way is in excellent health and in perfect condition to travel to Rome after restoration by the Opificio delle pietre dure. The Uffizi is proud to have been able to establish this extraordinary collaboration with the Quirinale and to be able to contribute, with all our scientific forces and with about 50 works, to an exhibition that is already destined to enter the history of world museology.”

The painting, in fact, was the subject of a restoration at the Opificio delle Pietre Dure, which lasted three years and was aimed at restoring the painting to its original luminosity and colors. Marco Ciatti, superintendent of the Opificio delle Pietre Dure, spoke on the subject in a statement. “After the restoration,” he said, “Raphael’s Leo X is in perfect condition, in an excellent state of preservation and absolutely able to go to the Scuderie del Quirinale without any risk to its ’health.’ The restoration work was carried out according to the most advanced criteria and methods available, the Pope is perfectly well: if all the conditions of safety and protection required for its transfer and display are met, there is no reasonable possibility of harm being done to it.”

Image: Raphael, Portrait of Leo X between Cardinals Giulio de’ Medici and Luigi de’ Rossi, detail (1518-1519; oil on panel; Florence, Uffizi Galleries, Statues and Paintings Galleries)

Uffizi, Scientific Committee resigns en bloc: protest against loan of Raphael's Leo X to Rome exhibition
Uffizi, Scientific Committee resigns en bloc: protest against loan of Raphael's Leo X to Rome exhibition

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