Born again after seventeen years of hibernation: Prato opens its brand new Museo di Palazzo Pretorio

During the Renaissance Prato, not far from Florence, was a rich town. Not as rich as the lavish Florence, but important enough to attract masters such as Filippo Lippi, Paolo Uccello, Agnolo Gaddi, who worked at the decoration of the amazing Prato’s Cathedral between the end of the 14th and the first half of the 15th century. Furthermore, Prato was one of the few rarest cities in Italy to have a public museum – albeit small – a hundred years before the Italian unification (1861), when most of the belongings of the Catholic Church were taken by the Italian government and turned into public cultural heritage. In fact, here the so called “Pinacoteca Civica” was founded in 1858, thanks to the erudite Cesare Guasti, and to his brother Gaetano, the major of the city at that time. Seventeen long years have passed since this extraordinary museum that gathers together more than 2000 pieces – including drawings and weapons – was closed to the the public. Now finally it has been returned to the city, in a very good shape indeed.


The interiors of the charming medieval building has been completely refurbished and even if from time to time the lighting is a bit annoying – in particular on the ground floor – the set up is definitely effective. The display cabinet, where the extraordinary Bernardo Daddi’s polyptych (1325-1335) can be found, allows the beholder to safely get very close to the paintings, as well as to the floating facades that support the big altar pieces. Moreover, in order to keep the feeling of their original collocation, they are not hanging on the walls, but lain on an horizontal support.


The second floor is dedicated to paintings from the 15th to the 17th century, extraordinary pieces such as the tabernacle by Donatello (1415-1420), or the Portrait of Baldo Magini by Ridolfo del Ghirlandaio (app. 1525), or also the Miracle of the grain by Alessandro Allori (1603). But the pinnacle of the visit is probably reached on the upper floor, where works from the personal collections of sculptors Lorenzo Bartolini and Jacques Lipchitz are on display. The light in this room is really remarkable, as well as the view. This kind of boutique museum, out of the tourists’ flock, can easily compete on the international cultural scene. Prato, Italy, should be proud of it.


September 22, 2014