Time catches up with art catches up with time…

The ceramic figure of Madonna and Child (attributed to Donatello) was protected from Napoleon by Valombrosian monks, and returned to its place in 2004
Notice in Santa Trinita, Florence.

…Art catches up with time catches up with art catches up…
And, to be fair, they thought about restoring it in 1844
Napoleon was dead, they said, and Europe calm,
But Florence was ruled by Austrians
They voted by a narrow margin to keep it hidden.
When just a few years later Napoleon III came along
They felt thoroughly justified in this decision.
Some of them wanted to put it back quietly
At the time when Italy became independent
And Florence was briefly the capital.
They argued that art could be safely displayed now.
Others thought this was a flash in the pan.
In 1904, with war with Austria looming,
The monks had a ninety-nine percent majority
For leaving it at the top of the tower
Where it seemed quite happy
And where they had grown accustomed to seeing it.

In 1954 they didn’t even debate it.
Everyone who had originally taken part
In hiding the sculpture (though the line between
Protecting an art piece and nicking said art piece
Was beginning to look increasingly thin)
Everyone who had taken part, as I said,
In the initial relocation, and everyone
Who had known anyone who had taken part
In the initial relocation, was long since dead.
But it seemed, in the wake of World War II
Almost tasteless to restore a thing they had protected
So long ago, from such a lesser crisis,
When so much else was lost.

In 2004 they had stopped feeling embarrassed
And all but two of the Vallombrosian Chapter
Were pretty sure Napoleon wasn’t a present menace
So they all trooped up to the belltower
Where the Madonna and Child (attributed to Donatello)
Had quietly rested for two turbulent centuries
Looked around at the rest of their stash
The Venus and Eros (attributed to Praxiteles)
They’d protected from the Goths,
The Madonna and Child (attributed to Giotto)
They’d protected from Walter of Brienne
The Madonna and Child (attributed to Michelangelo)
They’d protected from the Bonfire of the Vanities
The Madonna and Child (attributed to Botticelli)
They’d protected from the Nazis.
They just couldn’t be sure they’d be safe yet,
But they had agreed it was time to restore this one!
So they carried her back down into the church,
Smiling at a job well done.
…Time catches up with art catches up with time catches up…

12th July 2023