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Museo Comunale di San Francesco e Pinacoteca (City Museum of St Francis and art Gallery)

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Not far from Piazza Fortebracci, center of the small town of Montone, is the city museum (Museo Comunale), which occupies the ex-religious complex comprised of church and convent dedicated to St Frances. The museum opened in 1995 and is divided into two parts: one inside what used to be the 14th century church and the other in rooms that were part of the annexed convent.

Some of the original furnishings have been restored in the old church part. Worth noting is the embellished door created in 1519 by Antonio Bencivenni from Mercatello; the wood choir stalls from the 15th century; the exquisite magistrates pew (bancone dei Magistrati), a masterful work by the head guardian of the convent Stefano Cambi, who carved the wooden pew in 1505 with Roman ‘grotesque’ decorations that were popular at that time following the discovery of Emperor Nero’s home the Domus Aurea.

The rooms of the ex-convent are now used for the city art gallery (Pinacoteca Comunale) with exhibits of paintings, sculptures and furnishings from various churches in town, a collection put together when all ecclesiastical assets were confiscated by the newly-formed Italian State in 1860. The most important pieces are the banner of the Madonna della Misericordia (Our Lady of Mercy) from 1482 made by Bartolomeo Caporali,  the wooden figures of the Deposizione (witnesses) – four remaining figures from a composition that must have been much larger that came from the old St Gregory’s church and which are dated to 1260-70,  the Immacolata (immaculate-free from sin) painted by Cirelli in 1551, and the Annunciazione (annunciation) by Cirelli and Papacello (Tommaso of Archangelo) in 1532.

A series of religious gold items and valuable linens completes the collection, in particular the six richly embroidered “tovaglie perugine” (tablecloths from Perugia), in cotton and linen with the characteristic blue and white decorations from the 15th-18th centuries.

Several pieces that were once part of the museum in Montone were lost during the 18th and 19th centuries. Worth remembering among these is a painting that Luca Signorelli did in 1515 for the Cappella de Rutanis (Rutanis chapel); today it can be seen in the National Gallery in London. Also the composition of the Madonna and Saints created by Berto di Giovanni in 1507 for the high altar, today shared between Raffaello’s house in Urbino and Buckingham Palace in London.

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