In the last chapel on the right in the Cathedral of Pescia, a chapel known as the Turini Chapel, you will find a painting which you may think you have seen somewhere before, and if you have visited the Pitti Palace in Florence, then you will doubtlessly have seen this painting.
The story behind this magnificent copy of Raphael’s Madonna del Baldacchino is rather amusing. At the beginning o the 16th century, Cardinal Baldassare Turini, a native of Pescia, commissioned Raphael to paint a picture for the church of Santa Maria Assunta in his native town. In 1507 the painting was given a triumphant reception by the faithful and thereafter became the pride of the church.
However, in 1697, Prince Fernando de Medici, the eldest son of Grand Duke Cosimo III and a great lover of art, visited Pescia and was left astounded by Raphael’s masterpiece. To persuade the local clergy to let him have it, he offered not only the immense sum of 1,000 scudi but also commissioned the talented artist Pietro Dandini to paint a copy that was as close as possible to the original. The two paintings were then switched – in great secrecy – during the night of 7 September 1697.
The local clergy later used the money they had received to install a church organ and to extend their library!!!
So next time you are visiting Tuscany, visit the Cathedral of Pescia and see this extraordinary painting – a clever deception indeed!!!