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After a full cycle of restoration, the Stories from Genesis are once again visible in the Green Cloister (east side) at Santa Maria Novella. By Paolo Uccello and assistants.


Unfortunately, these frescos were in critical conditions due to a number of different factors: earlier attempts at restoration, humidity, atmospheric agents and the after effects of the flood in 1966. From 2011 to 2014, the first lot was cautiously restored by the Opificio delle Pietre Dure. Before returning to their original positions, the restored lunettes were exhibited in the Refectory of the Museum of Santa Maria Novella in ideal conditions of visibility. It was a unique opportunity to admire scenes such as the Great Deluge and other masterpieces by Paolo Uccello from close up and at eye height.
Paolo di Dono (Florence 1397-1476) known as Paolo Uccello [Bird] was one of the most fascinating painters of the 15th century. According to Vasari, his nickname derived from his passion in depicting winged creatures. His works unite the fable-like atmosphere of the late international Gothic style and the new canons of the Renaissance, in particular (again according to Vasari), the attempts to introduce perspective were his obsession. The representation of the Deluge and the recession of the waters (about 1447) is paradigmatic. It is crowded with figures and details, the hyperbolic perspective of the Ark represents two separate moments (before and after the deluge), while a suspended, dream-like atmosphere, typical of his style, pervades the scene. The unreal colours, prevalently “a monochromatic earth green”, which was also the origin of the name of the Green Cloister, contribute to the creation of this atmosphere and somehow seem to anticipate metaphysical painting.

According to art historians, his first work in the Green Cloister was as early as 1431 when having returned from Venice, he painted some lunettes (Creation of the animals, Adam and Eve and Original Sin) where the late Gothic component inspired by Ghiberti, who had been Paolo’s master, prevailed.
"A sugo d'erbe e terra verde” [A sauce of grass and green earth] is the title of the exhibition extracted from an intriguing definition penned by Dominican friar Vincenzo Borghigiani to illustrate the technique of these paintings.




Published: 4/4/2016

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