What began as a quiet moment of reflection in a local church turned into a whirlwind of events that sent the art world into a frenzy – a missing painting had been found. A 17th century Italian Baroque had been lost to art history for more than 50 years until Iona College visual arts professor Thomas Ruggio discovered it at the Church of the Holy Family, two blocks from Iona’s campus. The story made headlines around the globe.
“It’s something you expect to find in Italy, but it was really out of place in a church in New York,” said Ruggio, whose scholarly research includes the history and techniques of old Italian masters. “I knew it was a 17th-century painting.”
After conferring with fellow scholars in Italy and at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, experts identified the artist as Cesare Dandini. The painting, which depicts the Holy Family with the infant St. John, is connected to at least three other paintings by Dandini, including work in the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg, Russia.
Dandini, who lived from 1596 to 1657, was part of a family of painters living and working in Florence. The painting was possibly purchased in Rome by Monsignor Charles Fitzgerald to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Church of the Holy Family. Long considered lost to the world of art history, the congregation did not know that they had a Dandini work in their possession.
“Cesare Dandini’s Holy Family with the Infant St. John: A Rediscovered Florentine Baroque Masterpiece” was an exhibition curated by Professor Ruggio at Iona College’s Ryan Library. The exhibition focused on the painting, as well as information about the artist’s life and development, to help tell the story of a creative journeyand process that took place in Florence, Italy, during the 1600s.