The faulty air conditioning system in the Galleria Borghese isn’t just a burden on visitors: now it’s damaging the paintings as well, including Raphael’s Desposition, a priceless High Renaissance painting from 1507.
The masterpiece, which was one of the highlights of the Rome museum’s collection, has been severely damaged by the overwhelming heat, possibly past the point of repair. According to reports from the Independent, the extreme heat of the Italian summer warped the wood panel behind the painting.
Director Anna Coliva described the air conditioning system as “completely worn out” and said there was little they could do other than open windows and use fans and dehumidifiers to encourage the painting straighten itself out.
These efforts weren’t enough to restore the painting back to its former glory, so the museum removed the painting from display to undergo emergency conservation treatments. According to the most recent news, the damage to the painting has been reduced, but that doesn’t mean it will be safe from further damage if it goes back on display.
Coliva has been publicly railing against the shoddy HVAC systems since May, when she told the press that her requests to renovate the system were being ignored by higher-ups in the gallery. When asked about the accusations, Rome’s Head of Museums Daniela Porro said that the situation wasn’t as serious as Coliva was making it out to be.
The current condition of Raphael’s Deposition doesn’t reflect well on that statement. The minor repairs that were performed after Coliva’s complaint weren’t enough to protect the priceless painting, and the gallery’s other major art pieces could be at risk.
According to conservation experts, the temperatures are still dangerously high for the Borghese’s acclaimed collection of Renaissance art, which was created by Cardinal Scipione Borghese in the 17th century and features paintings from Titian, Correggio, Veronese and Caravaggio, among others.
Temperatures rose above 95 degrees Fahrenheit in Rome this summer, endangering the unprotected paintings as well as the gallery guests. Many visitors complained about the heat, and even experienced fainting spells.
If the air conditioning at the Galleria Borghese aren’t improved, Raphael’s Deposition may only be the first of many paintings that fall victim to the heat.