The Ideal Museum. Renaissance Rediscovered

A full-length documentary centered around the story of works of art damaged in wartime more than seventy years ago and brought back to life today.
Date(s) 29.06.2023
Location The Uffizi Gallery
Address Piazzale degli Uffizi 6 50122 Florence, Italy
About the Project
Organizers: Syntez–Integra film production company, the Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts, Stella Art Foundation

Syntez–Integra film production company, in association with the Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts and with the support of Stella Art Foundation, presents a full-length documentary titled "The Ideal Museum: Renaissance Rediscovered". 

The documentary focuses on the story of artworks damaged during wartime more than seventy years ago, now restored to their former glory. The film delves into the provenance and history of rescuing and restoring a Renaissance sculpture collection transferred from Berlin to Moscow in 1946, known as the Donatello Project.

During the Battle of Berlin in May 1945, a fire broke out in the bunker of the Friedrichshain flak tower, destroying several paintings by Caravaggio, Rubens, and Botticelli. Additionally, sculptures by prominent Italian Renaissance masters such as Donatello and Verrocchio were thought to be irreparably lost. However, more than seventy years later, it was discovered that the collection of sculptures had been saved. Soviet archaeologists and restorers found their charred fragments in the bunker, which were then transferred to the Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts for safekeeping.

The documentary showcases unique footage from the restoration workshops of the Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts, highlighting the work of restorers and researchers dedicated to restoring the sculptures that were severely damaged in the fire. 

Join our film crew as they visit a nuclear reactor facility to learn about the joint research programmes of the Pushkin Museum and the National Research Centre 'Kurchatov Institute'. Curators from the Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts and the State Hermitage Museum share unknown facts about the extraordinary efforts of their colleagues in the 1950s to rescue and return the collections of sculptures and paintings to Germany, without which Dresden's Gemäldegalerie and the Museum Island in Berlin would not exist today.

Filming took place in museum storage facilities and workshops in Moscow, Saint Petersburg, Berlin, and Florence. The film also features rare documentary footage and photography from the 1940s–1950s, sourced from the archives of the Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts, the State Hermitage Museum, and the Russian State Documentary Film and Photo Archive. Most of this material is being made public for the first time.

What did it take for museum workers from different countries to collaborate in their efforts to restore works of art created in Italy and divided between Germany and Russia? Can multiple institutions properly care for one art collection simultaneously? Is there such a thing as an 'ideal museum' that exists beyond time and space, featuring exhibits that are the cultural heritage of all humankind?

Leading experts in the field of preserving world cultural heritage, including researchers and restorers from the Bode Museum (Berlin, Germany), the directors of the Uffizi Gallery and the Museo Nazionale del Bargello (Florence, Italy), reflect on these questions and seek answers.

As part of the film production, contemporary artist Francesco Pignatelli (Italy) has created a special video installation that combines music composed by Leonardo Benazzi (Italy) with metaphorical images of an 'ideal museum' and sculptures restored at the Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts, including John the Baptist, Dancing Cupid, and Lamentation of Christ.

The project was implemented in partnership with Stella Art Foundation, providing an opportunity to rethink art of the past through their experience in organising exhibitions in Old Masters' art exhibition rooms of the Kunsthistorisches Museum (Vienna), the Ca' Rezzonico Museum (Venice), and the Louvre (Paris) curated by Boris Manner.

The filmmakers wish to extend their gratitude for assistance in the making of this film to the Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts, Stella Art Foundation, the Embassy of Germany in Moscow, the Embassy of Italy in Moscow, and OOO Knauf GIPS.


Screenplay: Ekaterina Pronko, Elena Chernyak, Tatyana Semyonova
Directors: Ivan Bolotnikov, Fedor Pronko
Producers: Elena Chernyak, Sergey Butkov

Syntez-Integra film production company specialises in producing art documentaries in association with leading museums and television channels, particularly with Russia-Kultura TV channel. Selected films include the following: Humanity. Survival in the 21st Century (2009, 5 episodes), The State Hermitage Museum. Pulse of Life dedicated to the 250th anniversary of the State Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg (2014, 58 min), Velga (2022, 84 min), Renaissance Rediscovered (2023, 72 min) in collaboration with the Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts, the Bode Museum (Berlin), and the Uffizi Gallery (Florence). Currently, in association with the Shchusev State Museum of Architecture, production is underway for documentaries about 17th and 18th-century timber architecture and the architect Alexey Shchusev for the 150th anniversary of his birth (the films are scheduled to be released in June 2023).

Syntez-Integra's team:

Ekaterina Pronko, General Director, art historian, producer. Graduated from the Ilya Repin Saint Petersburg Academy of Arts. Member of the Russian Union of Journalists, head of the Television Journalism course at the Russian State University for the Humanities. Produces documentaries for TV channels and festivals, many of which have received awards and support from the Ministry of Culture of the Russian Federation.

Elena Chernyak, producer, screenwriter, PhD in Art History, curator, author of books and articles on art. Graduated from M. V. Lomonosov Moscow State University, Department of Art History. Interned at the Victoria and Albert Museum (London, UK). Visiting lecturer at Ca' Foscari University (Venice, Italy). As a curator and art critic, Elena Chernyak has participated in organising exhibitions in Russia, Italy, and Switzerland.

Ivan Bolotnikov, documentary and feature film director, art historian. Graduated from M. V. Lomonosov Moscow State University, Department of Art History, and the High Courses for Scriptwriters and Film Directors. Worked in Russia and the Czech Republic as a trainee director for "Hard to Be a God," a film directed by Aleksei Yuryevich German. Director of "Kharms" (2016), "Palmyra" (2020), and "Velga" (2022).