Prato, an important letter discovered about Donatello and the pulpit of the Duomo

An important letter about Donatello and the pulpit in the Prato Cathedral was discovered in Prato: written by Matteo degli Organi at the Opera del Sacro Cingolo, it offers interesting and unpublished testimonies about the artist. exhibited at the Prato State Archives from May 9 to September 2.

Important discovery a Lawnwhere a letter regarding Donatello which had been lost in the 19th century. The letter was presented on May 5 atThe State Archives of Prato, in the presence of Diana Marta Toccafondi, former superintendent of Tuscany’s archival and bibliographic supervision, Leonardo Meoni, director of the State Archives in Prato, Alberto Batisti, artistic director of the instrument chamber in Prato city and Simone Mangani, councilor for culture in Prato municipality. The letter, dated 1434, had landed on the antiques market and was offered in the summer of 2021 to Alberto Batisti, who immediately recognized its value and warned Toccafondi: Prato’s archive therefore conducted a study and confirmed that the letter had already been reported in 1865 by the philologist Cesare Guasti as an object belonging to the ecclesiastical heritage, the institution founded in 1783 by the Grand Duke of Tuscany, Pietro Leopoldo, for the purpose of managing the heritage and archives alienated from churches and monasteries.

The letter was sent on June 19, 1434 by Matteo degli Organinickname of Matteo da Prato due to his profession as organ master, to the Workers from the Sacro Cingolo of Prato at the request of Donatello, who was his friend. In the letter, Matteo degli Organi informed the workers of the Duomo that the artist had completed the first of the reliefs of the pulpit in the Prato Cathedral, and the work had caused a sensation in Florence, where all art connoisseurs said “such a story has never been seen.” then the workers about Donatello’s intention to continue the work, especially if he had received “some money” to spend on the Feasts of John (even a little, as the artist tended to be satisfied, but it was necessary to offer him some form of satisfaction, because he was considered one of the greatest artists of the time.) The letter is therefore also of great importance because it offers unpublished revelations about Donatello’s personality, defined as a man with “small meal”, and who was therefore pleased with little.

Recognizing the significance of the letter, Tuscany’s archival and bibliographic inspectors have taken steps to submit the document for protection, possibly with the aim of having it sent to government collections. The owner, a musicologist, then spontaneously decided to donate it to the Prato State Archives. And from today, Monday 9 May, the State Archives of Prato will present an exhibition showing the rediscovered letter and various documents concerning Donatello (the pulpit of the Duomo is one of his masterpieces, as well as one of his best documented works). Among the documents on display as well accounting register with the first payments to Donatello and some notes by the artist himself. The exhibition remains open until September 2 and will be a useful opportunity to see Matteo degli Organ’s letter. The exhibition was made possible thanks to the contribution of the Cassa di Risparmio di Prato Foundation.

“It was originally preserved in Prato in the ecclesiastical heritage archive, among the papers coming from the Opera del Sacro Cingolo,” the archive’s director, Leonardo Meoni, explained to the ADN Kronos bureau. “Here, in the second half of the nineteenth century, the Prato canon Martino Benelli and Cesare Guasti saw the one who published its contents. Traces of it were subsequently lost. All research done by scholars to trace it in the archives of the ecclesiastical heritage, which became part of the archival heritage from the State Archives in Prato in 1958, failed.Professor Francesco Caglioti, curator of the big show Donatello, the Renaissance in progress in Florence, at the end of careful research into the relationship between Michelozzo and Donatello published in one of his essays published in 2019.

The art historian himself Francesco Caglioti stresses that “the restoration of the Matteo degli Organ’s letter on Donatello is extremely comforting news: for the happy ending to a story that started badly, for the sensitivity that a private person has shown to everyone’s records and historical heritage, and for they rediscovered the opportunity to read in the original one of the most curious and revealing documents about one of the greatest artists of all time “.

“The letter,” says Diana Toccafondi, “represents a basic documentary source for understanding Donatello’s Prato activity and the artist’s relationship with the client in the construction of the outer pulpit at Pieve, now the cathedral, built for the public exhibitions of the Sacro Cingolo. Marian “.

Prato, an important letter discovered about Donatello and the pulpit of the Duomo
Prato, an important letter discovered about Donatello and the pulpit of the Duomo

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