Pieve di San Pietro in Bossolo Museum of Religious Art



History of Tavarnelle

Museum of Sacred Art

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The Museum of Religious Art at Tavarnelle in Val di Pesa was opened in 1989 on the first floor of the canons' house of San Pietro in Bossolo and contains works of art from the ancient Parish Church of San Pietro and the Church of San Donato in Poggio. Part of the important nucleus of work directly pertinent to the Parish Church of San Donato has been left on site, while the remainder is preserved in the Museum of Santo Stefano al Ponte in Florence.

Parish Church of San Pietro in Bossolo

The Parish Church of San Pietro in Bossolo was rebuilt in Romanesque style before the middle of the 11 C. However, the many architectural additions over the centuries has considerably changed its exterior, so that only a minor part of the original structure is still visible. The recent restoration returned the interior towards its original appearance. The rows of stone in the walls and the pilasters have been uncovered and the many additions that previously spoiled the church's severe linear geometry have been removed. The nave and two aisles are divided into five sectors of equal width, supported by simple square pilasters with low open plinths and simple cornices at the top instead of capitals. The only other ornamental motif is the inset moulding that runs around the entire extrados of each of the arches.

Parish Church of San Pietro in Bossolo

The Pieve di San Pietro in Bossolo

The parish church is thought to have been founded by the Degli Alamanni family, and was at first the property of the Florentine Bishops and later of the Cathedral Chapter, which exercised its authority over it until 1340. Its patronage passed to the noble Buondelmonti family during the 15 C. When Andrea Buondelmonti, a member of that family, was parish priest and canon of the church, he promoted a series of important restoration works and enlargements. In 1508, he financed the reconstruction of the canon's house and, two years later, had it enlarged on the southeastern side, when he also added the portico onto the front of the church. The interior of the church was further altered during the next two centuries, until it completely lost its original character. Fortunately the radical restructuring and restoration carried out in 1946 returned it to its original state. The bell tower and the opening of the small Baptistery Chapel beside it date date from the last century.

The Museum of Tavarnelle

The canon's house, now in part the Museum of Religious Art, is reached from the cloisters. The museum catalogue groups the various works together according to their original provenance. A tour of the museum starts from the centre room on the first floor that hosts the paintings and furnishings from the Parish Church of San Pietro in Bossolo. At present, the original church property is composed of some valuable pieces of goldwork, among them a processional cross dating from around the 13 C, a few reliquaries in carved wood and some examples of liturgical vestments that were once part of the ancient furnishings. However, the Parish Church has also long hosted two extremely well-known paintings of great artistic value, the Madonna of Grace painted in the first half of the 15 C by Rossello di Jacopo Franchi and the 13 C painting on wood of the Madonna and Child, attributed to Meliore. The latter has become something of a symbol of this museum, partly because of the fact that such an early painting (ca. 1270-1280) has managed to survive to this day is always of exceptional importance, and partly because it is particularly famous and greatly studied, sometimes included in and sometimes removed from the artist's catalogue of work. The same room also contains a group of paintings on wood that are significant as far as the production of 15 C minor artists is concerned and which offer an occasion for focusing on the important aspects of a family-run workshop: they include a very fragmentary Madonna and Child, attributed to Lorenzo di Bicci and dating from around the late 14 C, and a series of six paintings carried out by his grandson Neri di Bicci in the 1570's that portray the Madonna and Child enthroned between St. Nicholas, the Angel Raphael and Tobias, St. Anthony Abbot, St. Domninus and St. Julian, the Lamentation over the dead Christ, with Sts. Luke, Margaret, Mary Magdalen and John the Evangelist, and some fragments, once part of an altarpiece, showing the Virgin Mary and St. Sebastian, St. John and St. Rochus, as well as two portraits of Friar Luca Lanfranchini from Mantua and Niccolò Sernigi, founders of the convent of Santa Maria at Morrocco, where the entire group of works comes from.

Tavarnelle Museum Neri di Bicci Enthroned Madonna with Child

Neri di Bicci
Enthroned Madonna with Child,
Documented in 1473

Tavarnelle Museum Meliore Madonna with Child

Attributed to Meliore
Madonna with Child
ca. 1270-1280

The di Bicci family

Lorenzo di Bicci, an exponent of the more traditional current in 15 C Florentine painting, was the founder of one of the largest and most active artistic workshops in the city. He was joined by his son Bicci di Lorenzo (whose works can be found in a great many churches in the countryside), during the 15th century, and followed by his grandson Neri di Bicci, who, after a period of apprenticeship, inherited both the workshop management and clients. The paintings on wood that Neri carried out for Santa Maria of Morrocco form a unique and extremely interesting group, because of their executive quality, their excellent state of conservation, and documentary certainty. The paintings of the Holy Conversation and the Lamentation are both mentioned in the painter's memoirs, where we can read that Niccolò Sernigi ordered them in 1472. The same patron also commissioned the altarpiece for the high altar, later dismantled, in 1475. According to the theory of Rosanna Proto Pisani, this work was composed of the Trinity with the scene of the crucified Christ in the centre, with the images in the fragments mentioned above on either side.

The artist know only as the Master of Tavarnelle, takes his name from the altarpiece of the Madonna enthroned between Sts. Martin and Sebastian that was originally in the suppressed Church of San Martino at Cozzi. A painting in the Museum of Religious Art at San Casciano (Sts. Anthony Abbot, Sebastian and Rochus) is attributed to the same artist. A small but important painting of the Madonna and Child and a youthful St. John, dating roughly from the end of the same century (1580 ca.), is unanimously attributed to Jacopo Chimenti known as Empoli, a Florentine painter influenced in his youth, when he carried out this painting, by Andrea del Sarto and Pontormo.

Master of Tavarnelle

Master of Tavarnelle or of the Cassoni Campana
Madonna enthroned with Child between Saints Sebastian and Martin
ca. 1510 -1515

Tavarnelle Museum Neri di Bicci Lamentation

Neri di Bicci
Documented in 1473

The silverware is grouped together in the centre of the room, according to the church of origin. The oldest silverware on display includes the two 13 C processional crosses, with engravings representing the traditional scene of the Mourners on either side of Christ and the four symbols of the Evangelists along the arms of the cross. Both have a linear outline and are without the terminal plaquettes used in later crosses; a 15 C chalice, that still conserves the enamels on the jointure the stem; and two thuribles, one temple-shaped and the other vaguely pyramidal in form, dating from the same period, but still based on 14 C models. A great many 17 C and 18 C furnishings of Florentine and Tuscan manufacture are also on display here. One of the most valuable examples is a chalice from San Bartolomeo at Palazzuolo, and a collection of Neapolitan silverware, all dating from the 19 C, except for the beautiful monstrance carried out by Nicola De Angelis in 1706.

The next room contains a group of works that come from the Parish Church of San Donato in Poggio and whose dates range from the 14 C to the 19 C. The oldest painting on wood, certainly one of the most important works on display in the museum, is the triptych of the Madonna and Child between St. Peter and St. John the Evangelist attributed to Ugolino di Nerio, that dates from the 1330's and comes from the Church of San Pietro a Olena. The same church once hosted the four 17 C paintings of Tuscan school of the Evangelists with their respective iconographic symbols beside them; the two octagons portraying St. Francis of Paola and the Sacrifice of Isaac, attributed to Giovanni Montini, a Florentine painter known to be active between 1600 and 1650; the Presentation in the Temple carried out by Alessandro Gherardini in the late 17 C, which has an opening in the centre created to contain a religious image at a later date; a painting of the Assumption of the Virgin of Florentine school from the same period and a more recent painting on wood of the Sacred Heart of Mary, dated 1874. The museum also contains a valuable 15 C painting of the Madonna and Child enthroned between the Archangels Raphael and Gabriel attributed to the Master of Marradi, that dates from between 1470 to 1480 ca. and comes from the Church of San Lorenzo at Cortine.

Museum of Tavanelle Museum of Tavanelle

Two canvases in particular are worthy of note from among the 18 C paintings from the Church of Cortine, as they make up a "pendant": the St. Joseph with the Baby Jesus, by a follower of Sagrestani, and the Sts. Peter and Paul by Francesco Conti. The remainder of the exhibits in the room include another group of 17th and 18th century silverware, beautifully made, but stylistically fairly ordinary, and an unusual 19 C cupboard in painted and carved wood, whose lower part was used as an altar table, while the upper part is divided into compartments to contain reliquaries. 

Votive objects, fabrics and vestments

The third room is dedicated to devotional objects and contains, apart from a large group of reliquaries in wood and silver (in the form of aediculas or urns, like monstrances), canvases portraying religious subjects: an 18 C St. Lawrence that comes from San Lorenzo at Cortine; and the St. Peter from Olena, dated 1770 and signed by Stefano Amigoli, a follower of Francesco Conti and active in Florence in the second half of the 18 C. The two other small paintings on wood present in the room portraying St. Luke (n. 15a) and St. Mark (n. 15b), were carried out by an unknown painter of Tuscan school and formed part of a 17 C group of four Evangelists, where each saint is shown seated, with an open book and his personal iconographic symbol beside him. 

The exhibition concludes in the corridor of the canon's house, partly dedicated to a figurative documentation of the deep religious beliefs of the people and dominated by the 16 C painting on wood of the Madonna and Child between Sts. Rochus and Albert of Sicily, attributed to the circle of the Florentine painter Antonio del Ceraiolo and painted for the Confraternity of the Assumption of Maria, next to the Church of Santa Maria at Morrocco. The three other paintings of Tuscan school hanging on the walls beside it, all commissioned by local worshippers, are votive paintings that testify to the veneration and popular favour directed to the Virgin of Morrocco. They commemorate important historical and religious events as in the 17 C painting of the Release from the Contagion of the Plague of 1630-1633, offering up thanks to the Madonna, and where we can also just pick out the Carmelite convent in the background; the Miracle of a Sick Woman in a tempera of 1744; and the Apparition of the Madonna and Child to a Devout Believer, the subject of the small oil painting of 1747. The corridor contains some significant examples of 17 C and 18 C liturgical fabrics of Italian manufacture, some of which, like the chasuble in salmon pink damask bearing the coat of arms of the noble Vettori family in the lower part, are valuable examples of textiles made for profane use and evidently re-utilised to make up religious vestments. 

Opening Hours: Winter Sat-Sun 3.30 pm - 6 pm
Summer Sun-Sat 4.30 pm - 7 pm

Museum of Farm Life

Museo E. Ferrari di Cultura Contadina

In the Castello di San Donato in Poggio located in via del Giglio there is a museum named after Emilio Ferrari, an engineer who made available for public viewing an extensive collection of tools, utensils and equipment. These items provide a revealing insight into the way in which the productive activities and small-scale rural craft industries of the Chianti region functioned. There are also numerous copper utensils and containers of various origins, mainly from the 19 C.

Opening Hours: Winter Mon-Sat 9-12,30 / 16-19; Sun 9-12,30
Summer Mon-Sat 9-12,30 / 16-19; Sun 9-12,30

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