When thinking about what to research for this first Looking Outwards assignment, my mind immediately went to Florence, Italy. Once the cradle of the Renaissance, this Tuscan town now serves as headquarters for art restoration and preservation. Two years ago, in 2016, la città commemorated the 50-year anniversary of the devastating 1966 flood of the Arno. It was the worst flood the city had seen in 400 years, damaging countless numbers of priceless works of art. Among them was Giorgio Vasari’s 1546 “ultima cena,” a 21-foot wood-panel painting. It was submerged in the floodwaters for over 48 hours inside la basilica di Santa Croce.
The Opificio delle Pietre Dure (OPD) is an “art hospital,” dedicated to restoring and preserving works of art like Vasaris’ last supper. This painting in particular sat untouched for a number of decades, until the OPD felt confident enough with the available technology to begin restoration. Using microscopes with recordings of photographic and digital images, x-ray equipment, infrared cameras/scanners, spectrocolorimeters, and a number of other advanced technologies, the OPD dwas able to restore Vasari’s masterpiece and put it back on display in Santa Croce.
I chose to write about this topic because although the technology used by OPD is not necessarily used to create entirely new works of art, it is used to restore old masterpieces to a former state of glory. In doing so, the OPD uses this technology to provide the public with countless works of art that could have very easily been lost for good.