November 1966: Giorgio Vasari’s Painting of the Last Supper Under Water for Twelve Hours.

During the alluvione (great flood) that submerged Florence in November 1966, Giorgio Vasari’s large panel painting depicting the Last Supper was under water for twelve hours. Called “one of the worst cases in conservation history,” the panel has been the subject of an intensive conservation treatment at the Opificio delle Pietre Dure in Florence with financial support from the Getty Foundation.

Vasari received the commission in 1546 from the Benedictine nuns of Santissima Annunziata alle Murate. With the Napoleonic suppression of all religious orders, the Murate was transformed into a jail, and Vasari’s painting was moved to nearby Santa Croce. Because of its large size and multi-panel poplar support, many thought the picture was beyond help. Conservators hope to finish the restoration by 2016, in time for the 50th anniversary of the great flood.

Giorgio Vasari, “The Last Supper,” 1546, reassembled for the first time in nearly 50 years. Archives of the Opificio delle Pietre Dure, Florence

Conservators at the OPD preparing the reverse of one of the Vasari Last Supper panels for rejoining. Image courtesy Britta New, National Gallery, London

Piazza Santa Croce, 1966

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