Monday, February 05, 2024

Pope Francis mourns former director of Vatican Museums

Antonio Paolucci in the Sistine Chapel

Antonio Paolucci, former Director of the Vatican Museums, passed away on Sunday at the age of 84.

He was one of the most renowned figures in art, both in Italy and abroad.

In a telegram, Pope Francis remembered Mr. Paolucci as an “esteemed connoisseur of art” who gave “generous and competent service” to the Holy See. He also assured Paolucci's family of his prayers, as well as his “personal condolences.”

Mr. Paolucci was appointed director of the Vatican Museums in November 2007 by Pope Benedict XVI.

Born in Rimini in 1939, he had headed museums in Venice, Verona, Mantua, and Florence, and served as government minister for Cultural Heritage.

He was a prolific writer but is particularly remembered for his studies on the Florence Baptistery and Michelangelo's Pietà.

A life dedicated to art

In July 2016, Mr. Paolucci was succeeded at the Vatican Museums by Barbara Jatta, who had previously worked as deputy director.

In a statement, Ms. Jatta said, “With Antonio Paolucci’s passing, a chapter in the history of the Vatican Museums comes to a close.”

She described him as a “refined art historian" who "dedicated his entire life” to “art, beauty, and culture.”

“Antonio Paolucci,” Ms. Jaffa wrote, “knew how to enchant like nobody else. There are people gifted with the art of speech, and he was the king of that category.”

Mourning across Italy

Eike Schmidt, former director of the Uffizi Galleries in Florence, said that "Antonio Paolucci's passing creates a great void in the world of culture." She recalled Mr. Paolucci's ability to communicate "very complex thoughts and concepts, making them accessible to everyone."

Simone Verde, the new director of the Uffizi, said in a statement: "We have lost a statesman and one of the most significant Italian scholars of recent decades, with unparalleled eloquence and writing skills and a natural talent for spreading knowledge ... His loss is irreplaceable."

Verde announced that, in Mr. Paolucci's honour, the museum's auditorium, "where he enchanted people with his words so many times", will bear his name.

Meanwhile, Italy's Minister of Culture, Gennaro Sangiuliano, said that Mr. Paolucci's death means that "Italy loses a passionate and rigorous man of culture, a tireless scholar who dedicated his life to the protection, promotion, and enhancement of our artistic and cultural heritage."