Giotto crucifix restored
Ognissanti cross to be returned to church November 614 October, 18:22
It was only during the painstaking restoration that the 14th-century work was definitively attributed to the pre-Renaissance master.
The large (467x360 cm) cross took so long to be renovated because it was in a "very poor state of repair," lead restorers Marco Ciatti and Cecilia Frosinini said, and the supporting structure had to be "thoroughly bolstered".
They pointed out that cutting-edge solvents were used to remove centuries of grime while "extremely delicate attention" was taken with the coloured glass in Christ's halo, which was "in very bad shape".
As well as enabling the attribution, the restoration work also "revealed a lot of new information about how the artist worked," they said.
In particular, they said, infrared reflectography examination allowed experts to discover preparatory drawings under the painting.
The crucifix will be unveiled in the Ognissanti church on November 6, although art fans will have a chance to get a sneak peek at it on October 18-22 at the Opificio delle Pietre Dure, Florence's world-famous restoration workshop, where the work was done. As befitting its new status, the cross, which had been relegated to a little-visited sacristy, will be placed in a transept chapel and illuminated by a special new LED system.
"Hitherto, the work only attracted the attention of experts, but from now on it will inspire that of the international public," said the head of Florence's museums, Cristian Acidini.
The Ognissanti Crucifix was previously thought to have been by a relative or pupil of Giotto.
Dating to the second decade of the 1300s, Giotto would have painted it some 20 years after completing his famous monumental crucifix in Florence's Santa Maria Novella church.
Although renowned for his skill at life drawings at a time when stylised Byzantine art dominated, much of Giotto's life, travels and training remains shrouded in mystery.
He was born in Tuscany of a father named Bondone, studied with Cimabue, one of the greatest painters of his day, and completed his greatest masterpiece, the decoration of the Scrovegni Chapel in Padua, in around 1305.
However, the year and precise place of his birth and his family's background remain subjects of dispute, as does the order in which he completed his works and even their attribution.