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Precious Fragment Reclaimed from Devastation of 1997 Earthquake Joins Exhibition of Works from Assisi During Final Week at Metropolitan

Of the many damages suffered by the Basilica of San Francesco in Assisi in the disastrous earthquake of September 26, 1997, certainly the most devastating was the collapse of two sections of the vaulting in the Upper Church, decorated with frescoes by the two greatest Italian artists of their day, Cimabue (1240-1302) and Giotto (1267-1337). In an instant, more than 2000 square feet of fresco from the dawn of Italian painting were transformed into colored dust and more than 50,000 fragments.

Poignant evidence of this disaster has been brought to New York with the addition of one such fragment to the exhibition The Treasury of Saint Francis of Assisi — on view at The Metropolitan Museum of Art through June 27. The fragment, which features the small head of a putto by Giotto, was originally included in the artist's Vault of the Doctors of the Church. Despite its small size (4-3/4 x 2-1/2 x 5-1/2 in.), this is one of the largest of the recuperated fragments and the only one to show a recognizable figure. This extraordinary loan was made possible by the Istituto Centrale per il Restauro, the Ministero per i Beni e le Attività Culturali, and the Sacro Convento di San Francesco di Assisi.

Organized to heighten awareness of the devastation caused by the 1997 earthquakes, The Treasury of Saint Francis of Assisi features nearly 70 masterpieces of medieval and Renaissance panel painting, sculpture, goldsmiths' work, textiles, and manuscript illumination have been lent from the collections of the Basilica of San Francesco, together with 30 works of art from museums and private collections throughout Europe and America. Among the works featured are some of the key monuments in the development of early Italian painting, leading up to the first flowering of the Renaissance in the work of Cimabue and Giotto in Assisi approximately 700 years ago.

The exhibition was organized by The Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Sacro Convento di San Francesco di Assisi, and the Ministero per i Beni e le Attività Culturali, with the cooperation of the Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana.

The exhibition in New York is made possible by Robert Lehman Foundation, Inc. Support for the international tour has been provided by Banca Monte dei Paschi di Siena S.p.A.

Transportation assistance has been provided by Alitalia.

June 22, 1999

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