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Madonna and Child

On display In the room of the Holy Belt is a worn-out detached fresco. It shows the Madonna and Child with bright colours and delicate, refined draughtsmanship. It is attributed to the famous Agnolo Gaddi, who painted it in the years when he was frescoing the chapel of the Holy Belt in the Cathedral. The fresco was recovered in the area of the Palazzo delle Scuole, the porticoed building next to the Palazzo Pretorio, in a room which was originally connected to the mediaeval church of San Donato.

Although it is fragmentary and considerably worn out, the detached fresco with the Madonna and Child still charms us with its luminous colour, its delicate, refined drawing and the elegant flow of the lines. The Virgin is holding the Child who is in the act of blessing and has a chaffinch, the symbol of the passion, in his hand (tradition has it that the chaffinch  stained itself with Christ’s blood as it was removing a thorn from His crown on the road up to Calvary). The work can be attributed to Agnolo Gaddi’s late career, the period when the artist was painting the splendid cycle of frescoes for the chapel of the Holy Belt in the Cathedral, and it is one of the most successful works by this refined artist, whose father Taddeo was one of Giotto’s  best pupils. The Madonna had been painted over a previous fresco with the same subject, in a room which was probably the parsonage of the old church of San Donato, next to the Palazzo Pretorio. After the demolition of the church, the present-day Palazzo delle Scuole (School Building), designed by Giuseppe Valentini was built in its place in 1825-1829 and embellished with an arcade on the square. The building also incorporated the old parsonage in which Gaddi’s fresco and the previous 14th-century Madonna were found and recovered around 1965.