Gli Innocenti di Firenze
Nicoletta Fontani, Elizabeth Wicks, Lucia Sandri, Timothy Verdon, Eleonora Mazzocchi, Ottaviano Caruso
festivals & awards:
It’s 1410 and there is a huge social problem in Florence. Babies
are abandoned and dying at an alarming rate. To solve the problem
Florence’s humanists organise and build a hospice for babies to
assist young mothers. To celebrate the completion of the new
building in 1446, they commission a painting to act as their
poster, logo and symbol for the new Institute.
Flash forward 600 years to 2013, the very same painting sits in a museum within the original building. Two women, an American and an Italian, are tasked with the restoration of the work due to be displayed after a renovation and reopening of the museum. The catalyst for this film is the painting. Over the course of 30 months the painting is meticulously restored and new mysteries about her origins are discovered. After centuries, restorers reflect on the work, it’s meaning and life in the time it was created.
The collective stories behind this painting are many because the Institute it represents is still in operation and has a rich and diverse history. Witnessing the restoration, allows viewers to learn about the process and reflect on the meaning of the painting which stood for women and social values in the humanist Renaissance era.
While the women work to restore the painting and uncover new facts and data about the creation of the work by famous Florentine Domenico di Michelino, viewers weave through the past to a time when modern social welfare systems are implemented and tested. The process of restoring artwork leads us to the very ideas which created it. This is a fascinating tale of how an Institute invented ways to save babies lives and continually morphed into a place mandated to provide innovative solutions for children. Here, the foundations for a building which were the hospice for women and babies develops into a home for the abandoned to care for the least fortunate in society. To this day the Institute the now restored painting represents is active in social services and in assisting women and children in need.
It houses a museum and the international offices of UNICEF. This single image, a painting, takes on centuries of meaning as we see she is gently restored and remains the symbol of the Institute which originally inspired her creation.