Umbria is about wine, textiles and art – some of the best qualities of Italian production. The town of Montefalco is associated almost exclusively with wine, as its name is also given to a DOC white made with grechetto and trebbiano grapes. They also make Sagrantino, an important red wine, and Arnaldo Caprai is one of the most successful producers of this vintage. The Caprai family also makes Cruciani bracelets. Together, the two companies have embarked on a project that is testimony to their love of place and of art. Here’s the story and how we can all help.

(Caprai4Love on Instagram: the 20 best photos of the bracelet displayed here will be part of an exhibit at VinItaly. Photo: Instagrammers Italia)

In Montefalco, one of the most important works of Renaissance art is a fresco cycle by the Florentine Benozzo Gozzoli, who worked alongside Fra Angelico in his workshop at San Marco and was chosen by the Medici to paint their chapel of the Magi inside the Medici Palace. Vasari never mentioned the Umbrian activity of Benozzo, which was rediscovered in the 19th century.

The presence of Benozzo Gozzoli in Montefalco is documented, other than by the actual paintings, by an autograph letter of 1452 that is now for sale. In 1452, as Gozzoli was working on his frescoes in Montefalco, Lord Michele Brancacci (son of Felice who commissioned the famous florentine chapel painted by Masaccio and Masolino) requested that the artist return to Florence for a new prestigious commission – we don’t know what this work would have been, since it never got negotiated. In the painter’s return letter, he informs Brancacci that he is working in Montefalco and soon has to travel to Viterbo (context tells us that this was to negotiate another job), basically providing a series of excuses to the Florentine for why he could not abandon Montefalco. The letter is signed ‘Benozzo di Lese dipintore. Montefalcho In san Francesco.’ (For part of the text, see here, in Italian.) Residents of this city now interpret this letter as testimony to Gozzoli’s love for Montefalco (or at least his esteem for the commission and work he was doing there).

In an effort to purchase the document for Montefalco, Cruciani, famous for its embroidery bracelets, has created a special edition #caprai4love bracelet; available as of April 7th, 2013, proceeds from the sale of #caprai4love commemorative bracelets will be donated to the Academy of Culture in Montefalco in order to purchase the Benozzo Gozzoli letter. The letter sold at auction last year at Minerva Auctions for 18,750 euros and is currently up for sale again.

Benozzo Gozzoli’s frescoes in Montefalco

The Gozzoli frescoes are in the church of S. Francesco, now the Museo Civico di Montefalco as it is an ex-church, well preserved, with areas dedicated to museum display in the attached convent. Gozzoli had been called to Montefalco initially by a certain Antonio da Montefalco who had met the artist when he assisted Fra Angelico at the Vatican and commissioned some panels from him in 1450. He was then called back by Jacopo da Montefalco, guardian of the convent of San Francesco, for this larger commission to illustrate the saint’s life in multiple scenes. It is his first commission outside of the Fra Angelico workshop and shows spontaneity and skill. The 12 scenes of the life of Francis are based on the franciscan sources Golden Legend and the official biography of the saint.

This is an interesting and worthy project as it shows the human side of family run, Italian industry, which feels connected to its place, its roots and its artistic heritage. Crucciani and Caprai have chosen a social diffusion of the information and asked bloggers like me to participate, which not only helps spread the word but also makes all of us participants in this crowdfunded project.

An absolutely beautiful video shows the beauty of this town and the deep feeling of its people who want to take back this piece of their history.

Please buy a bracelet today to support the movement – it is now available for only 10€ online from Cruciani. Let’s hope enough of these add up to buy  the document! Photograph your bracelet with the hashtag #Caprai4Love on Instagram to share the love!

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