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History of the Museum

Within the splendid interiors of Palazzo Pretorio it is possible to admire once again the beautiful heritage built through centuries thanks to the great men who loved the city, and to artists as Bernardo Daddi, Giovanni da Milano, Donatello e Filippo Lippi, and the Pratese Filippino Lippi e Lorenzo Bartolini.

A brief history is set out below.


The Grand Duke of Tuscany Peter Leopold of Lorraine proposes to house in the Palazzo Comunale a group of paintings from monasteries and oratories suppressed by the Jansenist Bishop Scipione de’ Ricci in 1783. These paintings,inspired by the concepts of the Enlightenment, provided education in art to young artists studying at the Scuola Comunale del Disegno.

Portrait of Granduca Leopoldo


At the initiative of the critic Cesare Guasti and his brother Gaetano, the Pinotec Civica is officially inaugurated in two rooms in the Town Hall. It displays, among other works, paintings by Filippo Lippi, Giovanni da Milano, Bernardo Daddi, and Lorenzo Monaco, coming from the ancient Spedale della Misericordia e Dolce. A first printed catalogue is published.


The collection of the Pinotec increases in value, thanks to a purchase from the Spedale della Misericordia e Dolce and to the first donations. The exhibition areas of the Town Hall are enlarged and reorganized.

1890- 1912

The idea of demolishing Palazzo Pretorio, at the time seat of the Pretura, the district prison and Monte Pio, is seriously considered. It is decided instead to remodel the structure as the new seat of a municipal gallery of artworks. After a long stage of planning and restoration, the Galleria Comunale is inaugurated on April 27,1912.

1913 -1940

The work of completing the remodelling initiative and collocating the artworks continues. In 1926, thanks to the initiative of Angiolo Badiani, a first group of plaster casts by the sculptor Lorenzo Bartolini of Prato origin enters the Gallery. Exhibitions are held until 1940, when the museum is closed in wartime and the artworks are moved to safer places, such as the Villa De’Medici in Poggio a Caiano.


The Galleria Comunale opens again with a new layout designed by the art historian Giuseppe Marchini, who edits a new printed catalogue.


Marchini’s arrangement remains basically unaltered. The most important exhibition of this period is on the extraordinary archive of the Palazzo Datini, set up in 1955 by Federigo Melis and inaugurated by two Presidents of the Italian Republic: the newly elected Giovanni Gronchi and the outgoing Luigi Einaudi.


In 1976 excavations of the first floor of the Pretorio reveal Medieval and Renaissance ceramics. In 1978 Anna Maria Petrioli Tofani and Ettore Spalletti set up the first exhibition dedicated to Lorenzo Bartolini. In 1983 the third floor of the Palazzo was closed in order to restore the roof.

1998 - 2010

The museum closes and just starts the process of restoration of the whole building. The masterpieces from the Fourteenth and the Fifteenth centuries are exhibited at the Museo di Pittura Murale in San Domenico, a few other paintings will enrich the Quadreria di Palazzo Comunale, the remaining works are kept into the museum storage. Meanwhile, many exhibitions with the treasures of the collections are held in Japan, in Barcelona and in Paris.


While the work of redesigning the museum and restoring Palazzo Pretorio is being completed, the collections are enriched with new and important acquisitions: in 2010 by the purchase of the precious Crucifixion by Filippino Lippi; in 2011 by the donation of works by Jacques Lipchitz, and in 2012 by the Angela Riblet donation of altarpieces by Santi di Tito and Alessandro Allori. In 2013, Palazzo Pretorio reopens its first and second floors to the public, with the exhibition Da Donatello a Lippi: Officina pratese (From Donatello to Lippi: The Prato Workshop), the first great exhibition on the Renaissance to be held in Prato.