The Daily Mail reports that Patrick Broderick, a 55-year-old emergency room doctor from New Fairfield, Conn., was attempting to compare his finger with that of the 600 year old Virgin Mary in the Museo dell’Opera del Duomo in Florence when the statue’s finger broke off. Worse still he appears to have tried to run off into the distance pretending innocence. Can you believe it!?
I have always maintained that tourists behave differently when they are on holidays, and I suspect he would not have dared touch a sculpture in a museum in his hometown. The lay back, casual air in Italy appears to encourage such behaviour and he is certainly not the first to have damaged a work of art whether accidentally – like the time the tourist tripped and smashed through the Picasso or deliberately when the madman bashed David’s toe with a hammer.
The abundance of masterpieces and lack of funding, together with inefficient management often means many are displayed in limited spaces with no protection. If you have ever squeezed your way through the Vatican museum, feet hardly touching the ground, in the hope of being blurted into the Sistine chapel, you will know what I mean. Still I am very fond of the Italian informal atmosphere and am always disappointed to see another protective barrier go up fending us off rather than seeing us being a little more respectful.
Tele cameras are a wonderful invention in this sense although the young Italian captured as he broke the hand off Neptune in Piazza della Signoria in 2005 may not agree. I think the Florentine community was more outraged to discover the offender was Italian than non. For Italians, stupid vandalism on an historical monument is abhorred, and I doubt he will ever live down the incident. Even though locals consider Neptune a poor statue and call it ‘il Biancone’ the big white lump!
Our American surgeon is very lucky, as the museum has decided not to lay charges (again that lay back approach), aided by the fact that the broken finger was a plaster replacement anyway. I wonder if he noticed that as he scurried off!
So if you are in Florence or thinking of coming over please don’t go to the Museum of the Opera dell’ Duomo just to see the broken finger (I understand visitor numbers have increased) but be overwhelmed instead by the recently restored Paradise Doors of the Baptistery and more.