It is an all too common experience in Florence’s Uffizi museum to pass through the galleries and find blank passages of wall where one expected to see a familiar painting, replaced by the ominous sign, in restauro .
Only this time, Piero Pollaiuolo’s Charity WAS on view in the Uffizi, though not with the other six virtues that make up the series. The panel had instead been restored separately, and was in May of 2003 put on exhibition in a small room — smelling of freshly applied varnish — towards the exit of the museum.
The restoration itself raises two pertinent issues. The first is the ongoing matter of corporate sponsorship, and whether any incentives, apart from the wellbeing of the object itself, should be considered when undertaking an intervention. As announced by the signage, the cleaning had been funded by Fratelli Piccini, a Florentine jewelry store, in celebration of its 100th anniversary, her magnificent broach and tiara presumably providing the motivation for their sponsorship.
The second issue strikes at the logic of the restoration. The painting is one in a series of seven commissioned from Piero Pollaiuolo for the ground floor meeting hall of the Mercanzia in 1469, although one figure, that of Fortitude, was executed by Sandro Botticelli the following year. The decision to restore them individually, and not to examine at least Piero’s panels together, is problematic. Amongst the panels, Charity was not in the poorest condition, and a unique feature of the work, a drawing on the verso, may have been a factor in the decision.