14th-century altarpiece ‘Madonna of the Snow’ restored

The Madonna of the Snow altarpiece, painted by Jacopo di Cione in the 14th century, has been restored and returned to the church of SS. Apostoli e Biagio in Florence. The medieval artwork had been stored in a laboratory for the last 58 years.

The restoration, led by Jennifer Celani and Daniela Parenti and carried out by Lisa Venerosi Pesciolini, began during the Covid epidemic and concluded in May 2024. The project, which was funded by the Friends of Florence Foundation, involved studying the individual panels and reassembling them into a harmonious whole.


Commissioned by Stoldo Altoviti in the last quarter of the 14th century, the altarpiece was intended for a side chapel built by his father Bindo. It consists of a central panel depicting the Virgin and Child and of two side panels depicting St. Theresa and St. Maria Maddalena de’ Pazzi.

The altarpiece before restoration – photo by Antonio Quattrone / Friends of Florence

Over the years, the altarpiece suffered significant damage, particularly from woodworm, and has been restored on several occasions. When a devastating flood hit Florence in 1966, the altarpiece was removed from the church and held at a laboratory for safekeeping.


The Restoration Process

Cleaning the paintwork, removing stains and polishing the large puttied areas led to the discovery of major fragments of original work, which allowed the restorers to reconnect in paint those existing parts of the painting that had been interrupted by the loss of the original brushwork, and to reconstruct the design of some of the architecture, thus restoring the narrative scenes’ legibility.

All the painted areas that could not be recovered due to the absence of fragments or to their complex composition were given a single background reflecting the dominant shade of colour in the depiction, but of an intensity capable of throwing into relief the islands of original paintwork still preserved.

Graphs and wooden models helped determine the best reassembly approach, focusing on historical accuracy. The central panel was reconstructed to align with the side panels and the predella, restoring the altarpiece’s unity.

Centre piece before restoration – photo by Antonio Quattrone / Friends of Florence

“At long last, we can now once again admire Jacopo di Cione’s altarpiece depicting the Madonna of the Snow in the church of SS. Apostoli e Biagio,” said Friends of Florence President Simonetta Brandolini d’Adda. “We are delighted to have supported this important operation, which has allowed us not only to preserve the painting but also to reassemble it with the scholarly stringency required for it to be appreciated as a harmonious whole.


“On behalf of the Friends of Florence, I would like to thank Father Nicola Tovagliari, the parish priest of the church of SS. Apostoli e Biagio, who offered us the opportunity to carry out the work, Soprintendenza ABAP officers Jennifer Celani and Daniela Parenti who directed and supervised the operation with meticulous care and attention, and restorer Lisa Venerosi Pesciolini who performed the restoration in conjunction with Roberto Buda and the members of the project team. Our heartfelt thanks also go to our donors, Angela Lo Re, Francis O’Neill, Denise Monteleone, Jim Martin, the Fullerton family and David Swensen, whose generosity has allowed us to conduct the entire operation from start to finish.”

The restoration was made possible with the support of Friends of Florence, thanks to a donation from Angela Lo Re, Francis O’Neill, Denise Monteleone, Jim Martin Fullerton, David Swensen, and Ted and Sandra Guarielloi.