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Bound by a Girdle

The closing of Bound by a Girdle will be postponed to the 25th of February, more than a month of extra time to visit the Palazzo Pretorio exhibition
From the opening 10 thousand visitors, success for the art conferences and highly attended the presence of schools with over 65 classes and many reservations         

Prato, 4th December 2017 - The first partial balance of Bound by a Girdle indicates the numbers of a pleasant success. In less than three months since its opening, 10 thousand visitors have enjoyed an exhibition full of art and history and have shown a growing interest and appreciation.       
"Together with the curators, we have agreed to postpone the exhibition Bound by a Girdle until Sunday the 25th of February 2018 - announces the Culture Councilor of the Municipality of Prato Simone Mangani - If in the first weeks the visitors were mostly single, we have seen an increasing presence of groups, especially schools. Even to meet the demands of these fundamental users of the Museum, it seemed appropriate to ask the great lenders like Metropolitan and the Vatican Museums a supplement of time; the scientific reliability of the Pretorio Palace and the curators of the exhibition made it possible to realize this opportunity."

Therefore there will be more than a month more time - than the 14th of January, date originally set for closing - to delve into a suggestive tale that moves along the centuries and pays tribute not only to the Marian Belt, the precious relic kept in the Cathedral of Prato and motor of the development of the city since the 13th century, but lights a beam of intense light on the art of the fourteenth century that in Prato, with the commissions to great artists such as the sculptor Giovanni Pisano and the painter Bernardo Daddi, gave resonance to the Marian devotion as a true civic cult. Legend tells that the Belt, delivered to St. Thomas by the Virgin at the moment of the Assumption, was brought to Prato in 1141 by the merchant of Prato Michele and donated to the provost of the parish church. Since then, the Belt has been a clear reference to the city identity, a strong symbol of union that through art stops being local and becomes universal, as shown by the interest of the many visitors of the Museum.

NUMBERS - During the first three months of exhibition, were 10 thousand visitors to the Pretorio Palace, many activities related to the exhibition including collateral events, workshops for children, educational activities and guided tours. On Saturday afternoon art conferences, which exceeded 500 participants, were particularly appreciated, demonstrating the great attention paid to the in-depth studies proposed with scientific rigor and with a great divulgative ability by some members of the Museum's scientific committee together with art historians and scholars. To date, about 1300 students, 65 classes, have visited the exhibition together with the teachers. But there are plenty of bookings for the next few months.

THE EXHIBITION - Curated by Andrea De Marchi and Cristina Gnoni Mavarelli, Bound by a Girdle retraces the iconography of the Madonna who gives her belt to Thomas, through more than 60 works including paintings, sculptures and illuminated manuscripts. The focal point of the exhibition is the reconstruction of the Assumption altarpiece by Bernardo Daddi (1337-38), dismembered over time and today exceptionally rebuilt thanks to loans from the Vatican Museums and the Met in New York. Another equally evocative element is the tympanum by the Master of Cabestany (1160) which welcomes visitors at the beginning of the exhibition path and shows the most ancient attestation in the West of the Belt in the hands of the Apostle Thomas. The set up is completed by a select core of profane belts from the fourteenth century that documents the beauty of this kind of artifacts, also reproduced in the very elegant St. Catherine painted by Giovanni da Milano in the polyptych for the Spedale della Misericordia, one of the masterpieces of the Palazzo Pretorio Museum. The documentary and visual testimonies of the cult of the Belt itself and the display, as well as the precious cases and furnishings of the Chapel of the Belt in the Cathedral, are also particular. Even the Prato Cathedral is an integral part of the tour; visitors can in fact enter the Chapel of the Belt, usually closed to the visits, and admire the cycle of frescoes made by Agnolo Gaddi. On the theme of the exhibition is also scheduled a conference in January with scholars coming from all over Italy.

Organized by the Municipality of Prato in collaboration with the Diocese of Prato and with the contribution of the Cassa di Risparmio Foundation, the exhibition is open every day from 10.30 a.m. to 6.30 p.m. (except on non-holiday Tuesdays). The entrance ticket costs 8 euros and allows the visit also in the Chapel of the Belt in the Cathedral of Prato (for the entrance to the Chapel it is advised to book the visiting time at the call center 0574 1934996, only after having bought the exhibition ticket).       
The cumulative ticket exhibition + museum costs 12 euros. Check all the reductions on the website www.palazzopretorio.prato.it. The ticket office closes at 6 p.m.           

A religious and civic symbol, heart of the artistic experiences of Prato and cornerstone of its identity: the Holy Girdle, the belt of the Virgin kept in the Cathedral, which for centuries was the most precious treasure of Prato, will be the focus of the new exhibition of the Museum. The exhibition Bound by a Girdle – Our Lady of the Assumption by Bernardo Daddi and the identity of a city, will be inaugurated on the 7th September in the spaces recovered in the adjacent building of the pawnshop.
A theme, that of Prato relic, which allows to turn an intense beam of light on an age of great prosperity for Prato, the fourteenth century, starting from commissions to first order artists like the sculptor Giovanni Pisano and the painter Bernardo Daddi, who gave resonance to the Marian devotion in Prato as a true civic worship. The exhibition is inspired by that precious symbol of undeniable identity value, to weave the threads of a story about the city and its rich heritage of culture and beauty, which is guarded on the territory and recognizable beyond the local borders.

Legend, art and tradition - The origin of the sacred belt worship is rooted in the twelfth century. The legend tells that the belt, given to St. Thomas by the Virgin at the time of the Assumption, was brought to Prato in 1141 by Prato merchant Michael, who donated it at his death, in 1172, to the parish priest. Between thirteenth and fourteenth centuries the relic became a real mark of election of the city - sanctified by a so precious relic which came miraculously from the Holy Land - and the engine of the artistic experiences of Prato.
 
The panel by Bernardo Daddi - One of the most prestigious images of the fourteenth century dedicated to Our Lady of the Assumption and to the miraculous gift of the Girdle to the incredulous St. Thomas is the altarpiece by Bernardo Daddi commissioned in 1337-1338. The work over time was dismembered and its complicated diaspora made lose awareness of its importance. The exhibition will allow to admire again the entire monumental work painted by Daddi, bringing together its parts which originally included a double predella with the history of the belt journey and its arrival in Prato (kept in the Museum) and the parallel migration of St. Stephen body from Jerusalem to Rome, to reunite it to that of St. Lawrence (kept in the Vatican Museums), and an ending part with Our Lady of the Assumption giving the Girdle to St. Thomas (kept at the Metropolitan Museum in New York).

Around this reconstruction will be illustrated the fortune in Tuscany of iconography that bound the death of the Virgin and her assumption into heaven. Some thirteenth-fourteenth century girdles will document the beauty of this kind of artifacts, accurately reproduced in the very elegant St. Catherine painted by Giovanni da Milano in the polyptych for the Hospital of Misericordia, one of the masterpieces of the Palazzo Pretorio Museum. Besides the two predellas by Daddi other works will enhance the fine narrative vein of this painter of the Giotto school. A wide range of paintings, sculptures and miniatures will show different elaborations of the theme concerning Our Lady of the Assumption giving the belt, starting from the loan of the eponymous relief by the Master of Cabestany, a Romantic sculptor working in the Roussillon and in Tuscany, first mention of the theme of the Girdle.
The Cathedral of Prato is integral part of a route that will allow the visitors to enter the chapel of the Girdle, usually precluded to visits, and admire the cycle of frescoes by Agnolo Gaddi.
In addition to the solemn displays, the Girdle was often shown to popes, princes or courtiers and, for the recognized miraculous power, it was displayed during epidemics and other disasters to call down the help of the Madonna. A series of written and visual testimonies that accompanied the worship of the Girdle itself, the furnishings for its safekeeping and display will help to understand the spectacular relic which relied the deepest identity and pride of a whole city.