Anniversary of the 1966 Flood in Florence – A turning point for the world

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Traditional art restoration emerged from the shadows, and the floodwaters, of the Arno River after the catastrophic flood of 1966 and became the professional discipline of art conservation. It was at this point in time that the world was shocked into collaborating to Save the extraordinary and irreplaceable artistic and literary patrimony housed in Florence. It is considered the cities worst flood since 1557! There are several significant reasons that I have it as a date to remember on my calendar. Here’s a good video summary of the efforts still being made decades later.

I’ve been to the Opificio delle Pietre Dure, the art conservation center in Florence, many times over the years and saw these art treasures in the video while they were being worked on.

A few inside details that you may enjoy knowing… I was told by Director Matteini of the conservation center that the crucifixion by Cimabue, one of Italy’s foremost Gothic artists along with Giotto, had been in bad condition and had been stored in the basement of the church for who knows how many decades. In the defense of its clerical caretakers, Florence was under severe strain in two world wars and a revolution over the last century or so and there have been many reasons why works of art have been hidden, sometimes in great haste. Whatever the reason, the 14.5′ tall Byzantine masterpiece was forgotten and considered lost as the decades passed and people rotated through the administration of the church . Imagine the surprise by salvage workers who were pulling art out of flood water and mud to find one of the worlds greatest lost works of art!

1966 Arno High-Water Mark

The Vasari Last Supper was such a huge mess… true heartache plagued everyone at the art conservation center where it was stored for decades, pushed to the back of the waiting line because of its severe, poor condition. The Italians were geniuses and wizards as they eventually overcame these challenges and came up with an amazing, wonderful result. When I saw this 12 ft wide work of art at the Opificio, it made my blood drain from my face it was so sad.

“They” say that the Chinese symbol for chaos or crisis is the same as “opportunity.” In any case, the philosophical thinkers spanning millennia often expressed the positive mental attitude that after a disaster or crisis, commitment which generates positive energy and resources are result in great opportunities. Such is the case with the worlds response to the 1966 flooding of the Arnold in Florence Italy. Badly needed resources that were never available previously were galvanized into applying the sciences to the preservation and restoration of artistic, historic and cultural testimonies so important to our collective memory. Indeed, the disastrous flood of the Arno River is worth remembering.

Questions about your art, even though you may feel its only a family portrait or heirloom? Call us for a chat at 805 564 3438 or

Scott M. Haskins and Virginia Panizzon, veteran art conservators at Fine Art Conservation Laboratories

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About Scott M. Haskins

Scott Haskins has been in professional art conservation since 1975, specializing in the conservation/restoration of easel paintings, murals and art on paper. FACL, Inc. is known nationally for doing A+ work no matter the size or difficulty of the project. We are happy to do a quick cleaning on a family heirloom. Our client list and resume is also full of very satisfied clients of large, difficult/complicated projects at remote locations. Excellent services are also available as an Expert Witness/Legal Testimony in art related matters. Consultation on art related projects occur regularly including extensive insurance evaluations for insured or insurer. Services are offered worldwide. Scott M. Haskins is also author of the "Save Your Stuff" series, educational information, materials and supplies to help people protect and save their treasured family heirlooms and collectibles at home and office. He can be reached at 805 564 3438. Video and written testimonials at
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