Restoration of Donatello’s Pulpit

Restoration of Donatello’s Pulpit of the Resurrection in the Basilica of San Lorenzo

The Basilica of San Lorenzo, chosen as the family church by Cosimo de’ Medici, was enriched with priceless works in the course of the 16th century and also conserves Donatello’s last masterpiece. In the central nave are Two Pulpits in bronze attributed to the maestro: on the south side is the one decorated with panels showing scenes related to the Resurrection of Christ, on the north side that showing scenes from his Passion.

The “Pulpit of the Resurrection” is the last work of the Florentine sculptor, who was over seventy years old at the time of its execution. Theories tend to place the time of realisation of the design by Donatello between 1453 and 1466, the year of his death. Two of Donatello’s pupils, Bartolomeo Bellano and Bertoldo di Giovanni also collaborated in a marginal manner on the realisation of the work. It is believed that this was the first of the two pulpits to be completed, and it is slightly larger than its companion-piece: 292 cm wide and 123 cm high (excluding the columns).

Ente Cassa di Risparmio di Firenze contributed to the restoration of the pulpit, which was carried out by the Opificio delle Pietre Dure between 2010 and 2013. The results of the laboratory tests enabled the application of new mechanical and chemical technologies for the cleaning of the surfaces decorated with gold leaf. Since these are both precious and fragile, products of extremely low toxicity must be used. The extensive diagnostic campaign was performed by the laboratory of the Opificio with the assistance of the CNR (National Research Council) of Florence and the Chemistry Departments of the Universities of Pisa, Ferrara and Florence. Analyses have now been launched for the companion pulpit “of the Passion”.

The cost of the three-year project came to a total of 263,238.65 euro; this was co-funded by Opera Medicea Laurenziana for 90,000 euro, while ARCUS (Società per l’Arte , Cultura e Spettacolo) allocated 124,038.65 euro and Ente CRF 50,000.00 euro.