La Madonna di Citerna Comes HomeThe tiny northern Umbria village, Citerna (pop. 3500), – ever heard of it? – will now be highlighted on the Italy map of any art-lover (and not only): after years of painstaking restoration, the early 15th-century polychrome sculptural wonder of Donatello, aptly named “La Madonna di Citerna,” has come home – to the village church of San Francesco. With the fanfare a queen merits.
An illustrated presentation of the 7-year restoration project by Florence’s Opificio delle Pietro Dure (Italy’s foremost art restoration institute) guided visits of the exquisite Madonna by Florentine art restorers, concerts, and a High Mass officiated by a cardinal and two bishops highlighted the recent 3-day inaugural ceremony. And in the medieval Franciscan monastery cellars beneath the church, the townspeople gathered for a celebratory closing dinner.
Over ten years ago, while cataloging Umbrian Renaissance sculptures, young art history student, Laura Ciferri, had been struck by a statue in the San Francesco sacristy. Inspite of layers of garish paint (added over the years), the grace of the Madonna, serenity of her gaze, the full-bodied Christ Child in her arms and the refined modeling of the terracotta bespoke the work of a master.Laura was gazing at the work of the sculptor (and goldsmith, painter), Donato di Niccolo’ di Betto Bardi (1386 – 1466), known to the world as Donatello, one of the finest Renaissance masters.
The added layers are gone; the gold-leaf, lapis lazuli and red laquer again adorn the Madonna.
Her gaze is serene but resigned: is she foreseeing her Son’s future? The Christ Child hangs on to his Mother, as if for comfort as He looks into the distance (the future?).
Presenting the restored Madonna di Citerna, Laura said: “I know I’ll never again feel the emotion of the day I found her.”
Laura, mille grazie: for the emotion we each now feel at first sight of la Madonna di Citerna.
Click here to see photos of Donatello’s Madonna, before and after restoration