Under the Ruin, a Masterpiece Remains
by Lisa Coleman
When we think of restoration today, our minds can quickly move to home renovations. It is fascinating to see an old dilapidated, derelict structure be revived to useful life through a long and costly process of tearing out, breaking down, and removal. It takes months if not years for some projects. The reveals are stunning and often border on disbelief that something so broken could be made so beautiful. And valuable yet again! The story of Raphael’s masterpiece is even more unbelievable.
In November of 2008 one of the greatest masterpieces of the Italian Renaissance was restored to its original splendor and returned to its home at the world-renowned gallery in Florence. The Madonna del Cardellino was painted by Raphael in 1505 for the wedding of his friend, a wealthy Florence merchant. It portrays Jesus Christ’s mother, Mary, with two children who are playing with a bird. The children symbolized John the Baptist and his young cousin Jesus. The gold finch bird that feeds among thorns is interpreted as representing Christ’s future suffering.
But something happened to this painting. It was painted in 1505. Forty years after it was created, there was an earthquake in the house in which this painting was kept, and the painting was shattered into 17 different pieces. The wood was all smashed up into bits. So another artist took long iron nails and tried to patch the pieces together. And then he tried to paint over it to conceal the breaks and make it look whole again. But over the years, there were so many layers of paint added and so much dust and grime over this painting that the original colors, the original art, was completely obscured.
The contemporary restoration project fixed the shattered areas and removed layers of paint and dirt to get the colors back. It was a team effort. It took fifty people ten years of working on this painting, and the result is stunning. The cracks are gone. Centuries of brown film and grime are gone. The dulling veneers and patches have been stripped away, and the finished product glows with all of the deep colors: the reds, and blues, and golds of the original work of art. Given how badly it was damaged, the restoration of Raphael’s painting is arguably even more amazing than the painting itself. The original was splendid, but the miracle of restoration compounds the beauty. Knowing the drama of the whole story, you can only gawk at it in wonder. (Mary Kassian, from the sermon “The Genesis of Gender,” PreachingToday.com)
This Sunday we will be exploring the Old Earth and the New Earth. Destroyed or renewed? Or both? Please join us!
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May God bless you and your study, as you seek to know Him better through the study of His Word.
Yours in Christ,