Unknown bust of Florence Cathedral dome architect found after 700 years

23 May 2024, 18:34

Italy Brunelleschi Discovery
Italy Brunelleschi Discovery. Picture: PA

The discovery of the terracotta bust depicting Filippo Brunelleschi was described as ‘exceptional’.

A previously unknown terracotta bust of the famed early Renaissance architect who designed the Florence Cathedral dome was unveiled on Thursday in the Tuscan capital, where it will be displayed permanently following restoration.

The Opera di Santa Maria del Fiore, charged with preserving the landmark cathedral and operating its museum, called the discovery of the terracotta bust depicting Filippo Brunelleschi after nearly 700 years “exceptional”.

It cited both the artistic value as well as the rarity of depictions of the architect around or after the time of his death in 1446.

Italy Brunelleschi Discovery
The terracotta portrait was recently found among the furnishings of an historic residence near the Tuscan capital (Opera di Santa Maria del Fiore via AP)

Andrea di Lazzaro Cavalcanti, Brunelleschi’s adopted son and heir, sculpted the life-like bust from a nearly solid block of clay in early 1447, before completing the monument later that year, experts said.

Art historians Giancarlo Gentilini and Alfredo Bellandi identified the sculpture as a model by Cavalcanti for the marble bust of Brunelleschi in the memorial monument in the Florence Cathedral.

Mr Bellandi praised the work’s “expressive naturalism of great intensity”.

Experts say the terracotta model was likely stored in the sculptor’s workshop for study for a period, and that the state of preservation indicates its significance was long preserved before it “later fell into oblivion”.

The Opera di Santa Maria del Fiore purchased the terracotta bust for 300,000 euros (around £254,777).

It will be exhibited in the Museo dell’Opera del Duomo near the cathedral after restoration work on scratches and to remove a chalky residue and traces of paint.

By Press Association

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