Few days after the fire has damaged the Titian’s painting “David and Goliath” (fire started on september 1st near the church of Santa Maria della Salute in Venice), firefighters and art conservation experts have removed the large painting (originally kept in the sacristy of the Venice) from its location to allow restoration activities. The painting has been damaged during the fire started from the roof of the nearby building and has been involved in firefighting operation from water used to extinguish the roof fire.
The pictures, which are part of the snapshots published in the official italian firefighters website, show the complexity of the operations needed to remove the canvas (located 10 m above ground) and the big number of people involved in the operations. Before the operations, firefighters have secured the structures and dried the rooms.
On July 21, 2010, a blaze has killed two firefighters in a Moscow restoration center. Several paintings and icons stored on the third floor of the Igor Grabar Restoration Center were lost in a fire too. Such paintings, icons and other artifacts from the 17th to the 19th centuries were stored at the Grabar pending restoration. The blaze, which lasted for two hours, covered an area of 2,000 m2.
Paintings and icons survived the fire are feared to be irretrievably lost due to water damage. Art works not affected by the fire could suffer damage from the large amount of water used by firemen to control the fire, since water can inevitably lead to the appearance of mould on paintings and icons. An accurate assessment of the damage to the artworks at the centre from the fire could only be determined after a full inventory of the remaining assets. The fire could run into hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions, of roubles. A single icon is considered 12 mln euros worth.
Twenty fire companies responded to the scene on Thursday and four helicopters dumped water on hot spots in the building 104 times.
The cause of the fire is unknown but there’s the suspect the fire started where restoration specialists were working at the facility or welding crew were working in the interior of the center.
On May 4, 2010, a deposit of building materials caught fire outside the church of Santa Maria dei Derelitti in Venice. At approximately 4.30 a.m., the flames penetrated into the building through a window and destroyed a painting (oil on panel) by Antonio Molinari dated second half of 1600. The flames did not propagate to other parts of the church but some damages were reported to paintings by Giovan Battista Tiepolo and other artists as well as artifacts that had been saved by firefighters.
Burnt building materials were used in the construction of a gas pipes in the nearby road.
The ceiling frescoes by Giuseppe Cherubini were damaged as well as the original 18th-century pipe organ. At the moment it is not known if the other damaged paintings in the church can be restored
Restoration works will require a long period of time and the church will remain closed because it will be necessary to disassemble the organ and individually clean each one of the organ pipes.
In the evening of 24 May, 2004, a fire broke out in the Momart storage warehouse in London. The warehouse was in a large industrial building that also housed other businesses. The warehouse was sublet from a household moving company. The fire, which continued to smoulder for nearly a day, destroyed almost all of the artworks stored within. As well as works from other collections, items from the Saatchi collection of so-called Britart were lost.
Arson investigators determined that burglars started the fire in an attempt to cover up the theft of consumer electronics from one of the other businesses in the building.
Art industry insiders noted that the insurance value of the works lost in the fire would be many times their initial purchase price, and that a comparable rise could be expected in the market values of the remaining works by artists whose works were lost.
The company that ran the art storage depot that went up in flames destroying hundreds of pieces of Britart may have paid out secretly tens of millions of pounds in damages to leading artists, collectors and insurance companies.
Art collectors that lost their properties in the blaze, through their lawyers claimed the storage warehouse which caught fire was wholly unsuitable for high-value fine art, had inadequate fire detection and was “a disaster waiting to happen. Estimates at the time of the fire put the losses to artists, collectors, galleries and insurance companies at between £30m and £50m.
Momart’s clients include the National Gallery, Tate Modern, Tate Britain and Buckingham Palace.
In 1963, the most famous painting in the world, the Leonardo da Vinci’s Monna Lisa, narrowly missed a catastrophe when it was on loan to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, after having left the Louvre in Paris for its first trip to the US. All possible precautions were taken for the painting’s safekeeping. It was transported across the Atlantic aboard the SS France in a waterproof crate designed to float if the luxury liner sank.
On 7 February, the portrait went on show at the Metropolitan Museum in New York to be seen by more than one million visitors in just a few weeks.
It was at the Metropolitan that the painting narrowly escaped severe damage one night, when a sprinkler malfunctioned, splashing water on the Mona Lisa for several hours.
In 1963, Dr Hoving (former director of the Metropolitan Museum) was a curator in the Metropolitan Museum’s medieval department. When he arrived at the museum before it opened one morning, he rushed to the secure storeroom where the painting was locked up at night, in order to check on an English 12th-century ivory cross he had recently purchased for the institution.
“I dashed to the [storeroom] to study my gorgeous acquisition, only to find that Murray Pease, the head of the conservation studio, and his assistant Kate Lefferts, [and] the officials from the Louvre in charge of the Leonardo portrait were rushing around with towels,” writes Dr Hoving.
“No one ever discovered why, but some time during the night one of the fire sprinklers in the ceiling broke its glass ampoule and the masterpiece of painting and the masterwork of ivory carving had both been…rained upon,” he adds.
Guards monitoring the Mona Lisa on a black-and-white monitor outside the storeroom could not see the water on their grainy screen.
“The Mona Lisa, according to the Louvre official, was ok…He told me that the thick glass covering it had acted like an effective…raincoat. The rainstorm was never mentioned to the outside world.” The Metropolitan Museum declined to comment on the incident.
Henry Gentle, a London-based private picture restorer, said damage to the painting could have been serious if it had not been protected by glass. “The paint could have swelled off [the panel] and become unstable. It really would have depended on the painting itself, whether it was protected by a strong varnish or not, and how long the water was dribbling on the surface.”