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Prada boss says private firms must chip in to restore Italian heritage damaged in quakes

Patrizio Bertelli made the plea at the unveiling of Vasari's Last Supper, which is back on display 50 years after it was damaged in the Florence flood of 1966

The chief executive of the Italian brand Prada, Patrizio Bertelli, used the unveiling of Giorgio Vasari’s newly restored Last Supper (1543) in the presence of the Italian president, Sergio Mattarella, in November to urge private companies to support the restoration of cultural heritage that was damaged in the recent earthquakes in central Italy. “We must not forget that the State is us. We must have a civic conscience and dip into our wallets because we live in a beautiful country—ancient and fragile,” Bertelli said.

Prada supported the treatment of Vasari’s painting, which went on display in the refectory of the Basilica di Santa Croce in Florence on 4 November—50 years to the day after the Arno River burst its banks. The work was submerged in polluted water for 12 hours and was among thousands of art treasures that were damaged when a torrent of mud and debris washed through the city.

Florence’s renowned Opificio delle Pietre Dure e Laboratori di Restauro (OPD) undertook the restoration of the painting, which can now be raised out of harm’s way by hand through a system of counterweights in the event of a flood.

Italy’s National Civil Protection Unit and the Getty Foundation also supported the treatment. It is part of the Getty’s Panel Painting Initiative, which trains a new generation of panel-painting specialists; 20 conservators have undergone training to date. Speaking at the unveiling, Antoine Wilmering, a senior programme officer at the Getty Foundation, referred to the conservators who treated The Last Supper not as “mud angels”, but as “guiding angels”.