An American-Egyptian tourist has damaged two 2000-year-old sculptures in the Vatican’s Museo Chiaramonti. Il Messagero newspaper reported that around lunchtime last Wednesday a man demanded to see the Pope, then threw one bust to the floor and knocked over another as he ran away.
The works – a late-Augustan veiled elder and a bust of young man thought to be an heir of the Constantino family – were among a vast collection of ancient busts and statues displayed in the museum’s Galleria Chiaramonte corridor, where the incident took place.
Matteo Alessandrini, the Vatican Museums’ press office director, told CNN the artefacts are secured with nails. “He pulled down one and then the other and the guards came immediately and consigned him to the Vatican Police.”
The 65-year-old visitor was reported as having a history of public indecency and mental illness. He was later taken into custody by the Italian authorities and faces charges of aggravated damage.
In the wake of harm to other Italian masterpieces in recent months, questions will inevitably be raised again about how to protect cultural heritage sites. This year alone, Dutch tourists have breached the Trevi Fountain, scooters and a Maserati descended the Spanish Steps, and in the most head-thumpingly ironic incident, a Canadian carved her initials into the Colosseum, leaving a perfect evidence trail for police.
This time, the repair work is expected to take up to 350 hours and €15,000 to complete. According to Alessandrini, one of the works “lost part of a nose and an ear, the head of the other came off the pedestal.” Miraculously perhaps, though the works will never be the same, the damage was deemed minor. Restoration has already begun.