From July, 17th to October, 12th, the Saint Matthew National Museum will allow visitors to admire ten 15th century precious paintings which, missing since more than fifteen years, were recovered last June by the Carabinieri Art Squad (Florence unit), appointed to preserve the national cultural heritage. Their intervention was prompted by a complaint filed by Pisa and Livorno Superintendence officers, who, while doing an inventory in the context of a reorganisation of the storage rooms, had ascertained that the artworks were absent. This exhibition is entitled "The recovered paintings at the Saint Matthew National Museum" and was set up as a result of the hitherto lost artworks having recently been retrieved. Besides aiming at showcasing these recovered treasures – among Metys’ valuable painting deserves special mention – the initiative has as its declared purpose to stress how crucial was the role played by both Security Force officers and the above referred to Carabinieri Art Squad in rediscovering and rescuing these works of art.
According to investigations conducted by Security Force members under the supervision of Pisa Judicial Authority, the paintings – made available on the national and international antiquities market– had been missing from the museum after having been entrusted to a restorer who was in charge of cleaning and maintaining them. Among the exquisite artifacts, a foremost place must be assigned to one rendition of Our Lady of Sorrows allegedly accomplished by Quentin Metsys. Such a masterpiece stands out for its value and is likely to date back to the year 1520. It is the only one of the author’s works which was set against a gold ground. After having been displayed at the Maastricht Market Exhibition, the painting was subsequently sold by a Swiss auctioneer for the requested amount of around three millions of Euros. Noteworthy are also a painting on wood portraying SaintBenedict and Saint Scolastica, allegedly accomplished by Sodoma, and a portrait of Saint Torpé. Within a reasonable time, the execution of the letter rogatory procedure will allow the museum to reacquire, in addition, two more small-sized painting, originally belonging to the smuggled set of artworks: the portraits of Saint Caterina and Saint Barbara, attributed to a Mannerist painter from Antwerp and possibly dating back to a period between 1520 and 1530.
The artworks will subsequently find their final location as an integrating part of the permanent collection; as far as the foreign repertoire is concerned, a newly conceived hall will devote special attention to the interplay between the Flemish School and the pictorial tradition of Renaissance Italy from the 15th and 16th centuries. In compliance with the consequent aim of appraising the artistic heritage preserved in the storage rooms by making it available to the public, a parallel smaller exhibition will take place. The exhibit – which is entitled “the Hidden Museum: paintings from the storage rooms. Pietro da Cortona and the Art of Painting in the 17th century" – draws visitors’ attention particularly because of its foremost points of interest: three works by Pietro da Cortona (Saint Philip in Ecstasy, The Vision of Saint Anthony of Padua, Saint Paul healed from his blindness by Ananias) and Salvator Rosa’s Saint Torpé. All of these masterpieces will finally enter the permanent collections along with a minor sacred-themed sketch. The purpose of this exhibition is that of showing the significant role played by the 17thcentury repertoire within the painting collection held at the Saint Matthew Museum - a cultural institution which, after having hitherto owed its renown and acknowledgment first of all to its astonishing Medieval treasures, can now take pride also in such a widening of its offer to the public: a new itinerary devoted to 17th century art.