by Giulia Maccianti
The belt of the Virgin, kept in the Cathedral of Prato, will be the focus of the exhibition of Palazzo Pretorio Museum, “Bound by a girdle – Our Lady of the Assumption by Bernardo Daddi and the identity of a city”.
The exhibition, organized by the municipality of Prato with the collaboration of the Diocese of the city, will be open to the public from 8th September 2017 until 14th January 2018.
The sacred belt, about 80 centimeters of fine green wool and brocade in golden thread, represents since the thirteenth century a religious and civic symbol of the artistic events of Prato and a pivotal element of its identity. The Prato relic in fact allows to shed light on an age of great prosperity for the city, the fourteenth century, starting from the commissions to important artists such as the sculptor Giovanni Pisano and the painter Bernardo Daddi, who gave resonance to the Marian devotion in Prato as a true civic workship.One of the most prestigious images of the entire fourteenth century dedicated to the Assumption and the miraculous gift of the Girdle to St. Thomas, is the altarpiece by Bernardo Daddi, focal point of the exhibition with its reconstruction.
The suggestive exhibition in Palazzo Pretorio is an interplay between history and tradition and highlights the rich heritage of culture and beauty kept in the territory and beyond the local borders. For the first time in fact you will be able to admire, thanks to the Metropolitan Museum of New York and the Vatican Museums, the reconstruction of the dismembered predella of Daddi, made for the Cathedral of Prato, and of which the Palazzo Pretorio Museum preserves one of the two. The work over time was in fact dismembered and the exhibition of the Pretorio will then allow to admire again the entire work, bringing together the different components that originally included a double predella – with the history of the belt journey and its arrival in Prato (now kept in the museum) and the parallel migration of St. Sthephen’s body from Jerusalem to Rome, to reunite it to that of St. Lawrence ( kept instead in the Vatican Museums), and an ending part with Our Lady of the Assumption living the Girdle to St.Thomas, kept at the Metropolitan Museum in New York. Around this reconstruction is illustrated the fortune in Tuscany of the iconography that bound the death of the Virgin and her Assumption in the Tuscan art of the fourteenth century. A chosen set of secular girdles of the XIVth century document the beauty of this kind of artifacts, reproduced in the very elegant St. Catherine painted by Giovanni da Milano in the polyptych for the Hospital of Misericordia, one of the masterpieces of the Palazzo Pretorio Museum. Besides the two predellas by Daddi, to better contextualize his art, are exhibited other works of this painter of the Giotto school belonging to the same stylistic phase characterized by a fine narrative vein.
A wide range of paintings, sculptures and miniatures also shows, in the opening of the exhibition, the different elaborations of the theme of the Assumption giving the belt, starting from the eponymous relief by the Romanesque scultor, the Master of Cabestany, who worked in Prato too. Also the Cathedral of Prato is an integral part of a route that allows the visitors to enter exceptionally the beautiful chapel of the Girdle, usually precluded to visits, and admire the cycle of frescoes made by Agnolo Gaddi with a guided tour by reservation.