Elizabeth Wicks and Nicoletta Fontani ‘Saving Violante’

Why seek out ‘copies’?

Siries Cerroti’s master masterwork, The Virgin Mary Presents the Baby Jesus to Santa Maria Maddalena de’ Pazzi resides in the sacristy of the church of Santa Maria Maddalena de’ Pazzi, an exquisite example of Baroque architecture in the center of Florence. It honors the miraculous visions of a local Florentine saint and is a magnificent copy of Luca Giordano’s earlier work in the church’s main chapel. Painted in 1767, it represents one of Florence’s very few examples of a large-scale devotional canvas by a woman. ”Violante was the first woman granted permission to copy at the Uffizi Gallery, shortly after it first opened in 1770. In the eighteenth century, copying was not only a source of training for artists, it was also a common commercial practice,” explains AWA researcher Poiret Masse. ”We’re talking about the world before photography. Copies were not perceived as slavish imitations of an original. Violante’s Pazzi painting is a great example. When compared with Giordano’s work, it has its own integrity.”