Department of Textile conservation

Antonio del Pollaiolo
St John the Baptist Rebukes Herod

or nué embroidery
Museo dell'Opera del Duomo


The precious artefact belongs to the famous series of twenty six embroidered square panels in gold and polychrome silk which originally constituted the decorative part of important liturgical clothing composed of two minor dalmatics, a chasuble and a cope. The historic sources and current studies agree in attributing the design of the embroidery to Antonio del Pollaiolo, as well as the repeated payments dating from 1466 to the 1480's of sums amounting to thousands of florins. During the 18th and 19th centuries the hangings are not only left to slowly degrade, but the embroideries are cut out, adhered to panels and framed behind glass to create simple pictures.

The complex problems of conservation and restoration were confronted at the beginning of the 1980's when an intervention methodology was developed, which was first applied to the scenes representing The Dance of Salomé and The Translation of the body of St John the Baptist. The conservation and associated studies were presented in Metodo e scienza. Operatività e ricerca nel restauro, exhibition catalogue ed. U. Baldini, Sansoni, Florence 1982, pp. 102 -106, with files ed. U. Baldini and S. Conti.

The conservation phases include detachment from the wooden support, separation of the linen cloth interposed between embroidery and panel, cleaning of the embroidery and consolidation and realignment of the embroidery threads.

The Opera del Duomo has recently had the opportunity to proceed in conserving another embroidery, indeed the one representing St John the Baptist rebuking Herod, on the occasion of the loan of the work to the exhibition "Renaissance Florence. The Art of the 1470's", held at the National Gallery of London in 1999. The already well known conservation problems were again confronted, but this time a few of the intervention techniques were improved thanks to an in depth investigation on possible chromatic alterations in collaboration with the IROE - CNR of Florence. These intervention techniques will be shortly presented in the forthcoming Institute Review.  

Marco Ciatti

Susanna Conti, Marzia Lorenzini e Caterina Fineschi della ditta Arcolaio di Siena

Scientific Investigation 
Scientific Laboratory of the OPD directed by Mauro Matteini: Isetta Tosini;

Bruno Radicati

Photographic documentation 
Marco Brancatelli.

Opificio Pietre Dure e Laboratori di Restauro - Firenze