In the 14th century, Florence was the center of the Italian Renaissance, but after a devastating flood in the 1960s, it became something else: one of the world’s foremost centers of art preservation and restoration.
The PBS NewsHour traveled to Florence in late September to visit the Opificio delle Pietre Dure (OPD), the Workshop of Semi-Precious Stones, where restorers are working on Giorgio Vasari’s “Last Supper,” a 21-foot wood panel painting completed in 1546.
During the 1960s that painting and many others hung in Florence’s Santa Croce Church and museum, which sits just a few blocks from the Arno River. But in November 1966, one of Florence’s worst-ever floods sent water, debris and oil into the city, damaging and destroying thousands of artworks and manuscripts. Water in the church reached nearly 20 feet high, submerging the Vasari for more than 48 hours.
For more than four decades it sat in storage as conservators and restorers debated how to save the work. And now, as the 50th anniversary of the flood approaches, restorers hope to finish their work on the painting and return it to the Santa Croce museum.
Photos below at the OPD and the Santa Croce Church show the lasting impact of the flood as well as the work that happens at the OPD. Watch the NewsHour tonight for a report on the OPD.