The Museum of Religious Art in the Collegiate of Santa Maria Assunta at Figline e Incisa Valdarno
This small but priceless collection of religious art first opened in 1983 and is arranged in two rooms adjoining the sacristy of the Collegiate of Santa Maria at Figline; the museum, which completes the visit to the church, contains a collection of paintings, religious furnishings, gold and silver work, vestments and illuminated manuscripts that come from the Collegiate itself or from other churches in the district of Figline.
The church contains the beautiful painting on wood of the Madonna and Child with Sts. Elisabeth of Hungary and Louis of Toulouse, and six Angels by the Master of Figline. The painting dates from just after 1317, the year that St. Louis, the Angevin prince, who renounced the throne of France to become a Franciscan friar, was canonised. His presence and that of another important Franciscan saint suggests that the work came originally from a church linked to the Order: in the absence of any reliable information, its original site is assumed to have been that of the nearby Church of San Francesco at Figline. The imposing throne of the Virgin is carried out in a daring empirical perspective, reminiscent of the works of Cimabue and Giotto at Assisi. At the end of the 15th century the cusp-shaped painting on wood was integrated with two other panels portraying Angels, now in the museum, carried out by an artist, who can perhaps be identified as Bartolomeo di Giovanni, from the sphere of Ghirlandaio.A painting on wood of the Madonna and Child and Sts. Roch and Romulus is also preserved in the church and attributed to Giovanni Andrea de Magistris, a painter from the Marches, and dated 1539; Romulus is holding a model of the town of Figline (part of the Diocese of Fiesole, of whom he was patron saint).
The first room in the Museum hosts a partly glazed Della Robbia terracotta representing St. Joseph: the colour of the saint’s skin was obtained by using cold-applied oil paints. It comes from the Collegiate and dates from around 1505-1510. The same room also contains an interesting series of polychrome standards with the symbols of the Passion of Christ, used in the Good Friday Processions; carried out in the 19th century, they come from the Church of San Michele at Pavelli.
The second room contains four very large paintings, which include, in particular, the splendid painting on wood of the Martyrdom of St. Lawrence of around 1590 by Ludovico Cardi known as Cigoli (1559-1613), which comes from the oratory of the Confraternity at the Serristori Hospital at Figline, which was devoted to this holy martyr. The Serristori family was in fact one of young Cigoli’s first purchasers, in the period when he was particularly influenced by Passignano and had only just returned from Venice, where he had enriched his palette with soft and brilliant colours. The painting was purchased by the Medici in 1783 and, after being preserved in the Storerooms of the Florentine Galleries for a while, was returned to Figline in the 1980’s. Three illuminated choir books are also on display in the same room: the two illuminated graduals of the second half of the 15th century, perhaps youthful works by the Florentine illuminator Attavante degli Attavanti (1452-1520), are worth noting especially.
The third room, which is reached through a fine doorway in local grey stone, contains liturgical hangings and furnishings of the 16th-19th centuries. It also displays a “polyptych” with the Adoration of the Magi in the centre and Sts. Andrew and John the Baptist and Sts. James and Anthony Abbot on either side; only recently transferred from the Church of Sant’Andrea at Ripalta, it was carried out by the Florentine painter Andrea di Giusto Manzini in 1436 (mentioned in documents between 1420 and 1450). It is a very valuable work and completed by a predella in the lower part with Stories from the Life of St. Andrew the Apostle, accompanied on either side by the kneeling figures of two patrons, one of which the inscription at the bottom of the base of the main painting identifies as Bernardo di Tommaso Serristori; the scene of the Annunciation is shown in the side cusps at the top, with the figures of Saints and Prophets above. The painter still adopts the late Gothic style that shows his knowledge of the work of Bicci di Lorenzo, Masolino and Lorenzo Monaco, though he is obviously already aware of many typical solutions of the Renaissance (Masaccio, Fra Angelico).
The sacristy, with its ceiling decorated with frescoes of the Sacrifice of Isaac by Tommaso Gherardini (1715-1797), contains other exhibits, like the canvas of St. Stanislaus Kostka, carried out in around 1859 by Egisto Sarri (1837-1901), a painter who originated from Figline and was an exponent of the artistic school of “historic Romanticism”. The Death of St. Joseph, at present on display in the Collegiate, though originally from the Church of San Pietro at Viesca (1862), is also by Sarri.