“We have been in the grip of this emergency for two months.”
Concerns have been raised about the preservation of one of the world’s finest art collections after it emerged that a cash-strapped museum in Rome had resorted to opening its windows to reduce humidity.
Home to masterpieces by Caravaggio, Titian, Raphael and Rubens, Rome’s Borghese Gallery has been without air conditioning in one section for two months due to a funding slowdown, just as Rome sweats through a hot spring.
While most of the world’s most prized art is increasingly housed in climate-controlled rooms to shut out humidity and pollution, guards at the gallery are opening windows to try to lower the temperature.
“We have been in the grip of this emergency for two months,” the museum’s director, Anna Coliva, told Italian daily La Repubblica. She said the air conditioningwas worn out after years of scant maintenance, with requests over the past few years for a new system falling on deaf ears.
Built in the 17th century by Cardinal Scipione Borghese to house his burgeoning art collection, the Borghese Gallery boasts such works as Caravaggio’s Boy with a Basket of Fruit and Titian’s Sacred and Profane Love, as well as sculptures by Bernini and Canova.
Custo- built for the cardinal’s collection, the frescoes on the ceilings of the building echo the themes of the works of art beneath them.
Opening windows might bring in cool air now, but with summer approaching, the race is on to get the air conditioning working again. In the meantime, the paintings risk exposure to humidity and pollution from Rome’s heavy traffic.
Daniela Porro, the head of Rome’s museums, said the situation could be worse. “This has affected one part of the museum only, an expert has studied the problem and work is due to start tomorrow to fix the problem,” she said.
The Borghese’s problems follow a series of collapses at the Roman city of Pompeii as Italy’s flatlining economy cuts down on cash to maintain the country’s huge archaeological and artistic patrimony.
On Saturday, the Italian government announced €5m (£4m) in emergency funding for the 1,200-room, 18th-century Bourbon palace at Caserta, near Naples, after a large piece of tiled roof collapsed – the latest in a series of mishaps at the Unesco site.
Visitors to Caserta have reported being hassled by lottery ticket sellers inside the palace, while local teenagers have broken in to use a pool in the landscaped garden for dips.
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