The display and arrangement of the collections at the Polo Museale di San Francesco was developed to provide continuity with the surrounding landscape.The museum is housed in one of the oldest Franciscan convents in the Marche (the complex was built thanks to the alms collected by the Franciscan friars and was consecrated in 1264 by Urban IV).
The museum narrative unfolds around the internal cloister of the convent and begins with the Centro di Documentazione Scenografica ‘G. Basili’. As well as photographs, sketches, critical texts and videos, this set documentation centre displays the original sets from a number of films on which Giancarlo Basili, a set designer originally from Montefiore dell’Aso, worked during his career.
The documentation centre leads into the Museo della Civiltà Contadina, which features a display of four hundred objects and tools that belonged to the families of Montefiore dell’Aso, making reference to popular songs, nursery rhymes, the sound of the loom, and animal noises from the yard.
It is followed by the Collezione ‘Domenico Cantatore’, which comprises numerous engravings, etchings and aquatints by the artist from Puglia, Domenico Cantatore (1906–1998), who spent many summers in the Montefiore countryside.
First and foremost, the works on display include Cantatore’s famous odalisques, his geometric portraits of men from the south, and sunny imaginary landscapes, packed with allusions to the Montefiore hills.In the Montefiore landscape, Cantatore found the genius loci that he was unable to find elsewhere. Indeed, he chose this small village as his adoptive homeland (the artist himself, when talking of Montefiore, said “Montefiore is in my heart; this is where I have been able to find peace, it is the place of my work”), leading him to donate his collection to the Municipality of Montefiore.
The museum’s key piece is the polyptych painted by Carlo Crivelli in 1472 for the church of San Francesco.As well as being characterized by its traditional gold background, the saints’ precious robes and accessories and the precision and attention to detail observed in the rendering of certain details place this work midway between painting and the art of goldsmithing.
The headpiece and staff of St Louis of Toulouse and the crown of St Catherine of Alexandria are of great importance in this sense, revealing an expert knowledge of goldsmithing and precious stone setting techniques (although painted, the stones feature the classic ‘cabochon’ cut and have a ‘closed’ setting) and a connection with 14th-century Venetian gold production, which Crivelli, originally from that city, certainly knew.
The final wing of the complex houses the Sala Adolfo De Carolis, a room which displays around five hundred works by the artist born in Montefiore dell’Aso.The works on show are primarily drawings and woodcuts, but there are also sixty-nine very important preparatory oil sketches painted by De Carolis for the fresco decoration of the Salone dei Quattromila in Palazzo del Podestà, Bologna, which he painted between 1908 and 1928.
The works are exhibited in a single room, probably the former refectory of the convent of San Francesco, which still preserves its original 13th-century walls.Because of this, the sketches are displayed on metal cages that reproduce the original arrangement designed by De Carolis for the Salone in Bologna, without damaging the historic features of the room that houses them.
These sketches in Montefiore represent the only surviving evidence of how the Salone in Bologna should have looked upon its completion.Lack of funds, an earthquake and the outbreak of the First World War slowed down the work and led to changes being introduced.Moreover, some of the frescoes were detached in 1969 and, following the installation of a new air conditioning system in the room, they can no longer be restored to their original position.
In addition to the Bologna sketches, the Sala De Carolis exhibits around three hundred and fifty woodcuts, studies and drawings donated to the municipality by the De Carolis family between 1974 and 2006, as well as some pieces of furniture from the artist’s studio in Bologna.
Polo museale di San Francesco, Piazza San Francesco
September – May 10 am–1 pm; 3 pm–6 pm (Sat–Sun)
June 10 am–1 pm; 5 pm–8 pm (Sat–Sun)
July – August 5 pm–8 pm (Mon–Fri); 10 am–1 pm; 5 pm–8 pm (Sat–Sun)
September 5 pm–8 pm (Tues–Fri); 10 am–1 pm; 5 pm–8 pm (Sat–Sun)
Entrance fee € 3.50 (full); € 2.50 (reduced); € 10,00 (museum network ticket)