Restoration of ‘Copy of Andrea del Sarto’s Madonna del Sacco’ by Irene Parenti Duclos


Who was Irene Parenti Duclos?

Irene Parenti Duclos, Copy of Andrea del Sarto’s
Madonna del Sacco
, Accademia Gallery, Florence

Eighteenth-Century painter Irene Parenti Duclos (1754-1795) had her own studio and was known for training other women artists. Her Copy of Andrea del Sarto’s Madonna del Sacco is the Accademia’s sole work by a woman artist. Her other works in Florence include two self portraits. The first, a classic bust-length painting, created in 1783, is currently stored in the Uffizi Deposits; the artist has also been recently attributed another self portrait in the Uffizi collection, a full-length depiction where the artist is shown painting in her studio. Also in storage, you’ll find a portrait of the Medici Court’s numismatician, Joseph Hilarius Eckel, commissioned by Pietro Leopoldo, Grand Duke of Tuscany, in 1773.

In her article ‘Studied Skills, Innate Talents’, a study on women copyists in the Uffizi, art historian Dr. Sheila Barker sheds light on Duclos’ artistic preparation. ‘The Uffizi records of 1773 witnessed the arrival of Irene Parenti Duclos who would go on to become a regular fixture among the men painting in the Uffizi,’ Barker writes. ‘Married to the copyist Giovanni Battista Duclos since her early youth, Irene Parenti was around 19 when she made a petition to copy from the old masters in the gallery of the grand duke. The archive records reveal that Duclos made a total of 39 oil copies between1773 and 1793, and these appear to have been carried out primarily in response to specific commissions.’

Self portrait, Irene Parenti Duclos,
Uffizi storages, Florence

Cathy Bert, Rossella Lari, restorer, and
Jane Fortune at Lari’s studio in Florence


More about the Copy of the Madonna del Sacco

Portrait of Pietro Leopoldo,
Grand Duke of Tuscany

Florence’s Accademia

According to Giuseppe Pelli Bencivenni, the director of the Uffizi Gallery at that time, Duclos ‘was not making this work on commission, but for herself’. It was Bencivenni who informed the Grand Duke Pietro Leopoldo of her copy, which he ‘saw her execute on top of the original’. In other words, she faithfully traced the design from the original and transferred it onto canvas, an amazing feat considering the work's enormous size (5.9 x 12.6 ft.).  The Grand Duke, who greatly admired Del Sarto’s very badly damaged Madonna del Sacco, bought the Duclos painting for 100 gold zecchini and exhibited it in the Pitti Palace from 1781 to 1863. After the Italian Unification, it was moved to various storage sites until it became part of the Accademia’s collection in 1983. Until then, it had not been seen by the public for 120 years!
Text adapted from To Florence Con Amore: 90 Ways to Love the City by Jane Fortune


Spotlighting the Duclos restoration

Restorers from AWA and ‘Friends of Florence’ trace
the original fresco using transparent paper

Traced details of the Virgin and the Christ-child

Advancing Women Artists celebrates its 2011 restoration project. Led by Accademia director, Dr. Franca Falletti and executed by Florentine restorer Rossella Lari, the project has offered interesting surprises and the unique opportunity to compare the painting with the original Del Sarto fresco, under restoration during the same period, thanks to a project funded by Friends of Florence. These timely collaborative efforts have given rise to in-depth studies to the benefit of both works. During their work, the projects’ restorers found evidence that Irene Parenti Duclos physically copied Andrea del Sarto’s fresco, a perilous feat performed at dizzying heights and from eighteenth century scaffolding!

This painting by Irene Duclos Parenti is a faithful copy of Andrea del Sarto’s Madonna del Sacco, located in the cloister of SS. Annunziata; nonetheless, there are very small differences. The canvas is 7.8 cm smaller than the fresco and our paintress does not take into consideration the 10-cm white frame that borders the lunette under the cloister’s arch. By superimposing photographs of the two works, we can see the identical nature of the drawing, except for a slight shifting of the architectural image. The book placed on the step is not as thick in the fresco. Meanwhile, the individual figures correspond in all of their details. Graphic relief of the Duclos painting, carried out on transparent paper and superimposed onto the fresco itself, showed that even the single folds of the draping fabrics were faithfully copied. One can deduce that Irene Parente Duclos traced Andrea del Sarto’s fresco, onto the canvas. Her colors are equally faithful, except for the cloth that covers the Christ-child’s hips. In the fresco it’s violet, while Duclos paints it a shade of grayish white that’s very different from the other whites present in the fresco. Perhaps she preferred white rather than violet, which is normally considered a symbol of penitence. The parts where the Duclos painting is considered to have turned out less successfully—such as Saint Joseph’s mouth and the Christ-child’s hair—are those that prove particularly scratched or illegible in the fresco. This may provide proof that our paintress copied the fresco directly, after it had already been ruined.

Italicized text by Rossella Lari
*Used with permission from author and Accademia project director

Andrea del Sarto’s Madonna del Sacco before

An interesting note about the Del Sarto fresco:
Considered ‘flawless’ by his contemporaries, Andrea del Sarto (1486-1531) was one of the finest fresco painters of the High Renaissance in Florence. In the Church of Santissima Annunziata, you’ll find his ‘Madonna del Sacco’ above the church exit at the left end of the nave. Known for his pious, giving character, Andrea del Sarto often waived his fees while executing religious paintings—such was the case for this stunning fresco created in 1525. Already badly damaged by the eighteenth century, the fresco was restored (March 2011) by Friends of Florence an international not-for-profit foundation based in the United States.


The Duclos on show with Lorenzo Bartolini

Salone dell’ottocento, Florence’s Accademia

The Duclos on show with Lorenzo Bartolini
Scheduled for exhibition in May 2011, the newly restored 3-meter painting by Irene Parenti Duclos is part of an exhibit on Lorenzo Bartolini (1777 – 1850) and other nineteenth century artists, on show at Florence’s Accademia until December 2011. Irene Parenti Duclos’s Copy of Andrea del Sarto’s Madonna del Sacco can be found on permanent display in the Salone dell’Ottocento, a stunning ground-floor room.