In the Cathedral of Pescia, Tuscany you will find an extraordinary piece of art. In the Turini Chapel is a painting that looks exactly like Raphael’s Madonna Del Bacacchino which is in housed in the Pitti Palace, Florence.
The story behind this magnificent copy is actually rather fascinating. At the beginning of 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 it 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 thunderstruck 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 extend their library.