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Friends of Florence and American Friends of the Prado Museum announce restoration of Fra Angelico’s Annunciation

Renaissance masterwork will be the centerpiece of a special exhibition of the artist’s work opening in May 2019 in celebration of the Prado’s Bicentenary

Madrid, Spain – A generous contribution of €150,000 ($171,000) to the Museo del Prado (the Prado), made equally by Friends of Florence and American Friends of the Prado Museum, will go towards restoring The Annunciation by Fra Angelico and other works not held at the Prado Museum to be included in a major exhibition slated for the coming year, Fra Angelico and the Rise of the Florentine Renaissance. The exhibition is part of the Prado’s Bicentenary celebration in 2019.

Miguel Falomir, Director of the Museo del Prado, Simonetta Brandolini d’Adda, President of Friends of Florence, and Christina Simmons, Executive Director of American Friends of the Prado Museum, signed a partnership agreement last Wednesday at the Prado in Madrid, Spain.

On view from May 28–September 15, 2019, the exhibition of some 40 pieces is curated by Carl Brandon Strehlke, curator emeritus at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. The exhibition’s centerpiece, The Annunciation, was painted by Fra Angelico in the mid-1420s, and is considered the first Florentine altarpiece in the Renaissance style, using perspective to organize space and forsaking Gothic archways in favor of more rectangular shapes, in line with the aesthetic implemented by the architect Brunelleschi in his innovative approach to the churches of San Lorenzo and the Santo Spirito.

The main purpose of restoring the work is to recover the rich, vivid colors and intense light that imbue the scene. Both are characteristic elements both of this piece and of the artist’s work in general but, over time, have been obscured under layers of dirt and pollution accruing on the surface. The intervention will also eliminate abundant layers of paint applied latterly to the intersection between two of the four wooden panels on which the work is painted. Over the years, the wooden backing developed structural problems as two of its panels separated, opening a crack running through the figure of the angel and causing layers of paintwork to be lost. Several attempts had been made to repair the damage and preserve the piece, the most recent in being 1943. However, in addition to restoring losses on either sides of the seam, these attempts had also painted over extensive areas of the original work. Over the years, these new layers deteriorated badly, ultimately manifesting as blemishes that severely affect the quality of the piece.

The exhibition will also include other Florentine works being restored in Italy, also thanks to the generosity of Friends of Florence and American Friends of the Prado Museum. These will include Virgin and Child by Michele da Firenze, currently housed in the Museo Nazionale del Bargello; Donatello’s terracotta Virgin and Child, also featuring two angels and two prophets and owned by the Museo di Palazzo Pretorio; and Gherardo Starnina’s Trinity, from the Chiaramonte Bordonaro collection.

The exhibition will analyze the beginnings of the Florentine Renaissance in 1420-1430, focussing on Fra Angelico (Guido di Pietro da Muguello, 1395/1400-1455). Fra Angelico is considered one of the great Renaissance masters having produced some of the major artistic achievements of the time and place, along with painters Masaccio, Masolino, Uccello and Filippo Lippi, sculptors Ghiberti, Donatello and Nanni di Banco, and the architect Brunelleschi.

The Annunciation will be a central work in the exhibition, accompanied by another two of Fra Angelico’s works recently added to the Prado’s collection: The Funeral of Saint Anthony Abbott, and The Virgin of the Pomegranate, both from the Duke of Alba’s collection, the former donated and the latter purchased.

American Friends of the Prado Museum
American Friends of the Prado Museum is a U.S. non-profit organization with the mission of contributing to the knowledge and conservation of one of the most important collections of European art and objective of strengthening the cultural ties between the U.S. and Spain through the Prado Museum and its artistic, historical legacy.

A group of art patrons from the U.S. created the institution with the aim of fomenting the philanthropic potential existent in the U.S. with its tradition and culture of supporting worthwhile causes. Of all the international visitors to the Prado Museum, visitors from the U.S. are consistently the most numerous year after year, which makes American Friends of the Prado Museum an excellent means to encourage support for the painting gallery.

To stimulate support for one of the finest painting galleries in the world, American Friends of the Prado Museum offers a diverse Friends program beginning from $100 per year and includes free entry to the Museum to both permanent collection and temporary exhibits, as well as the possibility of guided visits in English, among other benefits.

Individual, corporate and institutional contributions to American Friends of the Prado Museum, a 501 (c) 3 non-profit institution, may benefit from the fiscal deductions offered by the I.R.S.

Since the beginning of its activity in 2015, American Friends of the Prado Museum has received William B. Jordan’s donation of a newly attributed portrait of King Philip III (1627) by Velázquez, now on view in the Velázquez galleries of the Museum; edited in English the research publication on its discovery titled Portrait of Philip III by Velázquez Donated by William B. Jordan; and sponsored the Bosch and Flemish painting gallery guide in English for visitors to the Prado.

In the U.S., it has co-organized with the Museo del Prado three educational exhibits of “The Prado in the streets” in the cities of Santa Fe, Albuquerque, and Las Cruces in New Mexico. It has provided educational material about the Museo del Prado for 130 schools in North America in collaboration with the Spanish Embassy in the U.S.

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L to R: Miguel Falomir, Director of the Museo del Prado; Simonetta Brandolini d’Adda, President of Friends of Florence; and Christina Simmons, Executive Director of American Friends of the Prado Museum with The Annunciation (mid-1420s) by Fra Angelico. © Museo del Prado.