You may recall the global disgust over a Chinese tourist who wrote on an ancient Egyptian temple, now it will be Americans who hang their heads in shame. An unidentified 55-year-old man from Missouri snapped the finger off a 14th or 15th century marble masterpiece when he decided to measure it by grabbing the hand. It is something out of a Seinfeld episode but this represents a serious act of destruction of an ancient piece. Fortunately, it can be repaired.
The piece is called the Annunciazione by medieval sculptor Giovanni D’Ambrogio. The Annunciation refers to the announcement by the angel Gabriel to the Virgin Mary that she would be the mother of Jesus. The hand on this work at Florence’s Museo dell’Opera del Duomo is not part of the original and is made of plaster. A security guard was rushing to tell this dysfunctional moron not to touch the art when the finger snapped off. He was at the museum with three other people.
I have been to this museum in Florence, as have many other Americans, and marveled at its collection. What this man did is a national disgrace and embarrassment. How old do you have to be to know not to touch art works? I can understand kids forgetting the rule (which is why we hover close to them at museums). This was a grown man.
The tourist was reported to police. Do you believe that this should be a criminal matter? As angry and disgusted as I am, this is clearly not an intentional act. It is an act of unspeakable stupidity to be sure but should it be charged as a type of criminal negligence? In the very least, the museum should charge this man for the restoration of the hand . . . and hopefully ban him from ever returning to the museum.
48 thoughts on “American Snaps Finger Off 600 Year Old Masterpiece In Florence”
“pbh51, I disagree. When I last saw Mona she was in a cryo case with perfectly controlled air and the lights (dim) came on intermittently for viewing”
Maybe the Louvre and the Tate have higher standards, but at the Academia, the Vatican Library, the Prado or the National in Athens, not to mention Stockholm, standards are a whole lot lower.
Standards vary. I am merely reporting things I have seen. I do not extrapolate from one high security site to the rest of the art world.
All over Italy, Spain, Greece, Portugal and large parts of Scandinavia, there are cathedrals and churches filled with the most amazing art. And you can walk right in. There are no guards and you can touch anything you like.
Again, the piazza della signora. No guards.
That is a wonderful result to the tragedy that you and your family had to endure. Kudo’s to you and your dedication to your sister and justice.
I would venture to say that your civilized response to a cruel and uncivilized act was much greater than a retaliation. It doesn’t sound like an ‘in kind’ act to me….you were big enough to follow the channels of process…that is the best we can do in this world except we become the thing that has harmed us. I think you were tested on a level most of us are lucky enough to never see…and proved yourself better than what you were dealt. I’m so sorry for the horror you went through. I also suspect that the world became a better and safer place because you didn’t take a darker road to get ‘even’.
And I don’t disagree completely…schadenfreude has it’s up side.
retaliate – definition of retaliate by the Free Online Dictionary …
re·tal·i·ate (r -t l – t ). v. re·tal·i·at·ed, re·tal·i·at·ing, re·tal·i·ates. v.intr. To return like for like, especially evil for evil. v.tr. To pay back (an injury) in kind.
That said, justice in this case is probably not needing to be so harsh….
Woosty: “Tit for tat” seems to be an inherent part of human psychology; answering insult with insult, assault with assault, and even murder with murder.
People DO feel vindicated when the people that wrong them suffer for it. Not just people, but ME. I spent a great deal of time and money getting my sister’s murderer prosecuted (with a D.A. that refused for months to even consider it), convicted and sentenced to life in prison, and I could tell you I did that for altruistic reasons and protecting society, but the truth is, although I thought of those excuses, I did it in retaliation, on behalf of my sister, her infant son, her friends, and my family, and for myself. And every time he comes up for parole I will spend whatever it takes and do my damndest to ensure he never gets it. Ever.
We can disagree. But to me revenge is a motive, and a positive emotion. I remain glad I succeeded in it. It may not bring my sister back, but I do not have to live my life knowing the person that murdered her got away with it (as he planned) and was living his life enjoying the fruits of his crime.
1, August 8, 2013 at 9:03 am
“Art (in music, story writing, acting, painting, sculpture) is intended to be emotionally evocative. Sometimes that succeeds only for the artist, but when it succeeds in being strongly evocative for a very large number of people, then, because people value the emotions evoked by the art, the art is highly valued.”
“…that is how people learn to behave well, by suffering negative consequences when they behave badly.”
well, except those few rather strange ones that seem to get something unintended out of ‘punishment’….or refuse to change their behavior no matter how many times they are punished….or who have learned that negative attention is better than no attention….in fact I don’t think punishment is a very good learning tool at all….I think it breeds fear.
“That is the value of punishment, both as retaliation for harm done and the prevention of future harm. ”
I think there is less value in ‘retaliation’ than you imply. If we are talking about being just and in the purpose of justice, which I think has more to do with preserving civilization and civilised discourse etc, then retaliation is a singularly destructive and anti-judicial act. It may in fact be a very quick and slippery slope to hell…. but the prevention of future harm, and the making whole where damage was inflicted, (even without intent)…that I think lies closer to anything that could be called just. And the world is quite full of bulls in china shops (and learning curves etc…) so I don’t see even the slightest bit of intent on this mans part….and as a surgeon I’m guessing he could fund the recasting of a not integral (as it was not part of the original) finger ….but if he suffers psychological harm because he was ‘outed’ and overly shamed or persecuted? Then I think he should be reimbursed for the therapy he will probably need…
Gus: Can you eat your house? Can you eat your children? Can you eat a hammer? Can you eat “Democracy”? Can you eat “human rights”? Can you eat the idea that it is wrong to enslave others?
By your logic, it is ridiculous for you to put value on any of those things.
People do not value only utility, people value their emotional states. In fact, there is plenty of evidence in brain science that the emotional states are really all that people actually value.
Art (in music, story writing, acting, painting, sculpture) is intended to be emotionally evocative. Sometimes that succeeds only for the artist, but when it succeeds in being strongly evocative for a very large number of people, then, because people value the emotions evoked by the art, the art is highly valued.
Sometimes literally; in the sense of a song or a book selling a few million copies, or a movie making a few hundred million dollars. But just because value does not get monetized does not mean the value, in the form of emotional states, does not exist.
Gus says: Let’s all relax and heavily reduce the desire to punish everyone.
I don’t want to punish everyone, I want to punish the one arrogant self-centered jerk that apparently thinks ancient art revered and admired by millions is his play toy because he happens to be standing in front of it.
Even generalized, that does not amount to punishing everyone. Most adults have learned to pursue their own happiness without causing harm to others or destroying things of value to others. Most adults have learned they cannot do anything they like without any consideration of consequences or their impact on others. That that have not learned that need to be punished until they do; that is how people learn to behave well, by suffering negative consequences when they behave badly.
And I, for one, am not willing to rely upon their expressions of regret or mortification as sufficient consequence; that is a little too easy for some to fake and for most to forget. I prefer more direct and certain negative consequences, not just to force learning in the perpetrator but to serve as a deterrent to those that do not care about the emotions of their fellow humans and without a deterrent would freely harm them for their own selfish gains.
That is the value of punishment, both as retaliation for harm done and the prevention of future harm. When it is misused for the purpose of coercion it is a bad and harmful thing; but properly used it produces a net decrease in undeserved harm.
1, August 7, 2013 at 3:29 pm
I have found that Euopean Museums are much more relaxed about protecting their collections than American Museums. No one thinks twice about crowds of people taking flash pictures of a 500 year old painting. In the US, the guard would take your camera.
I disagree. When I last saw Mona she was in a cryo case with perfectly controlled air and the lights (dim) came on intermittently for viewing (yes, even light can be destructive….).
(note the discoloration on the walls).
This was in addition to climate controlled rooms in general. The art is carefully inspected for damage and such on a very rigid and regular schedule and repaired by Masters of the craft when necessary.
Picture taking in the majority of museums was allowed sans flash. (we also used to be able to set up easels for copying the works but I’m not sure if that is still allowed…)
Here in the US, you are not allowed to take pictures but I think that may have more to do with museum marketing which shuffles people through the gift shop prior to the exit so that purchases of the ‘show’ catalogue can be pressed.
So you see Gus, here in the US it really can be ‘eaten’…..
This is not a national disgrace …. it is an act by an individual. I don’t care where he came from. He broke a physical object. Okay… fix it. Get over it. It is ridiculous how much value is placed on *art* Yes *art* is great…. but is it really priceless…. I don’t think so…. Can it be eaten… that is the acid test. Let’s all relax and heavily reduce the desire to punish everyone. Let us back off from creating a *PrisonWorld*
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