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Exhibitions | From 24/03/2024 to 30/06/2024

Manufacturing Beauty. The Follonica manufactory and artistic culture in the Grand Duchy of Tuscany

Lands of the Uffizi comes to Follonica for the very first time with an exhibition celebrating the manufacture of cast-iron artefacts as the city's historical and artistic heritage

Follonica has decided to celebrate its artistic and cultural history associated with the production of cast-iron artefacts with an exhibition. From 24 March to 30 June, the “Fonderia 1” foundry in the ex-Ilva area will be hosting Manufacturing Beauty. The Follonica manufactory and artistic culture in the Grand Duchy of Tuscany, promoted and organised by the Comune di Follonica as part of the “Lands of the Uffizi”, a project devised and produced by the Gallerie degli Uffizi and the Fondazione CR Firenze in the context of their respective “Uffizi Diffusi” and “Piccoli Grandi Musei” schemes.

The exhibition focuses on Grand Duke Leopoldo II of Lorraine’s “dream” of establishing an artistic manufactory for the production of cast iron in the Maremma. This “new” material, a product of the industrial revolution that was being used throughout Europe to create bold new masterpieces of architecture, was chosen by Grand Duke Leopoldo to become Tuscany's primary “raw material”. He selected Follonica as the ideal setting for his scheme in continuity with the Medici's “iron policy”, which had earlier forged a bond in the region between the mass of iron ore being mined on the Isle of Elba and the thickly forested area around Follonica with its endless waterways. The result was the establishment of the Magona.

The exhibition housed in the extensive halls of the "Fonderia 1" foundry, one of the 19th century manufactory's most representative buildings, explores the interaction between Follonica's manufacturing apparatus and the artistic and political context in Florence that first spawned the project. "Manufacturing Beauty" sets out to illustrate the idea of a manufactory (whence the modern word "factory") as a crucible of artistic and industrial research, which was exactly the situation in Follonica at the height of the grand ducal foundries' activity, revealing how the experimentation in which the foundries engaged perfectly reflected the national and international debate prevalent at the time.

For the very first time the former Ilva works will be hosting drawings, plans, paintings, sculptures and casts from the Accademia delle Arti e del Disegno's Fondo Manetti in Florence, from the Archivio di Stato in Florence, from the Museo Stibbert, from the Galleria d'Arte Moderna in the Pitti Palace and from a broad range of other lenders - including numerous private collections - reconstructing the history of the city's foundation and its artistic development. Art is the exhibition's leading protagonist, of course, with Lorenzo Nencini's St. John the Baptist which so perfectly encapsulates the debate between "ideal beauty" and "natural beauty" that held sway in Florence at the Accademia, itself a child of the grand ducal reform. The statue, designed for the church of San Leopoldo, will be surrounded by the paintings and sculptures of the other players in the debate, Pietro Benvenuti, Giuseppe Bezzuoli, Enrico Pollastrini and Lorenzo Bartolini, to capture and convey the spirit of the times.