Motherhood in the sense of the origin of the world and the quintessence of love is the leitmotif of the second Lands of the Uffizi exhibition in Poppi.
The exhibition centres on a painting showing the Blessed Torello da Poppi Blessing a Woman Nearing the End of Her Pregnancy (oil on canvas, late 18th century), an utterly unique iconography in the panorama of Tuscan painting. Restored specially for this exhibition, the large canvas originally commissioned for the church of Santa Trinita in Florence is attributed to the Florentine painter Santi Pacini and has been dated to the late 1770s, when the artist was engaged in painting the frescoes in the vault over the choir in the church of Camaldoli.
Torello, a hermit of Avellaneto near Poppi, has been venerated since the late 13th century, the century in which he lived, as the patron saint of women in labour and of babies in the womb. The depiction of this extremely delicate moment in life as a theological metaphor for the path of man’s salvation is also extolled in the exhibition by a group of works on loan from the Gallerie degli Uffizi focusing on the Annunciation to Mary and on Christ’s Nativity. The most significant of these is an Allegory of the Incarnation and Persian and Libyan Sybils, a sophisticated painting showing the nomen sacrum (IHS), the emblem of the Company of Jesus or Jesuits, on the Virgin’s womb. Also on display is an Annunciation formerly attributed to Bronzino but now given to his Florentine contemporary Giovanni Bizzelli, and the Unnatural Vow, a grandiose if controversial sculpture by the 19th century Sicilian sculptor Salvatore Grita, in which a pregnant woman wearing a nun’s habit and collapsing against a flaking wall stands for all the unmarried mothers and young girls who were forced to take the veil against their will and their natural temperament.