On Tuesday, the scientific committee at the Uffizi gallery in Florence, a group of experts tasked with evaluating which artworks are fit for loan, quit en masse in protest over the decision to loan a famed Raphael painting for a blockbuster retrospective of the artist in Rome.
According to a letter sent to its administering body, which includes the education ministry and Florence’s city council, the panel said it had deemed the 1518 portrait of Pope Leo X unfit for travel from the Uffizi. The work had recently been restored, and the letter’s authors stated they had received confirmation from Uffizi director Eike Schmidt in December that their ban on the loan would be honored. Only later, they said, did they discover via local media reports that the painting would, in fact, be making an appearance in Rome for a show at the Scuderie del Quirinale.
“Keeping us busy for months drafting lists which are then ignored undermines the very existence of the committee,” stated the letter. “We think that the mass resignation of the scientific committee of Italy’s most important museum makes a rethink inevitable, and a redefinition of the role of the scientific committees in the management of autonomous museums.”
The upcoming Raphael show, which is slated to run from March 5 to June 2, marks the 500th anniversary of the death of the Renaissance master. Over 70,000 tickets have already been booked or sold for the blockbuster exhibition, which has been billed by Italy’s culture ministry as the most comprehensive survey of the artist ever staged.
The show was organized in collaboration with Uffizi, which is sending around 40 works from its holdings. More than 200 works have been loaned from 52 art institutions worldwide, including masterpieces such as Madonna del Granduca and Woman with a Veil from the Uffizi, the Portrait of Baldassarre Castiglione from the Louvre in Paris, and the Madonna of the Rose from the Prado in Madrid.
According to Schmidt, the portrait of Pope Leo X will be a centerpiece of the exhibition. “I stand by my decision to loan the work,” he told ANSA, adding it was “indispensable” to the show.
Spokespersons for the Uffizi and the Scuderie del Quirinale did not immediately respond to requests for comment.