American Snaps Finger Off 600 Year Old Masterpiece In Florence

statueYou 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”

  1. Italy should be used to this! Shades of Mark Twain:

    “Ah, genteelmen, you come wis me! I show you beautiful, O, magnificent bust Christopher Colombo!–splendid, grand, magnificent!”

    He brought us before the beautiful bust–for it was beautiful–and sprang back and struck an attitude:

    “Ah, look, genteelmen!–beautiful, grand,–bust Christopher Colombo!– beautiful bust, beautiful pedestal!”

    The doctor put up his eye-glass–procured for such occasions:

    “Ah–what did you say this gentleman’s name was?”

    “Christopher Colombo!–ze great Christopher Colombo!”

    “Christopher Colombo–the great Christopher Colombo. Well, what did he do?”

    “Discover America!–discover America, Oh, ze devil!”

    “Discover America. No–that statement will hardly wash. We are just from America ourselves. We heard nothing about it. Christopher Colombo –pleasant name–is–is he dead?”

    “Oh, corpo di Baccho!–three hundred year!”

    “What did he die of?”

    “I do not know!–I can not tell.”

    “Small-pox, think?”

    “I do not know, genteelmen!–I do not know what he die of!”

    “Measles, likely?”

    “May be–may be–I do not know–I think he die of somethings.”

    “Parents living?”


    “Ah–which is the bust and which is the pedestal?”

    “Santa Maria!–zis ze bust!–zis ze pedestal!”

    “Ah, I see, I see–happy combination–very happy combination, indeed. Is–is this the first time this gentleman was ever on a bust?”

    That joke was lost on the foreigner–guides can not master the subtleties of the American joke.

    Squeeky Fromm
    Girl Reporter

  2. 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.

    Also, and not to make any excuses for touching the statue in the first place, but if the guy thought the hand was marble and it was really only plaster, then he could have made the additional mistake of overestimating its tensile strength, thereby applying too much pressure to the finger.

    Florence is a city full of art, the Loggia della Signoria itself contains an open air display of some of the most fabulous statues and, if you don’t know any better, you could easily run your hands over them. In a less restrictive atmosphere, where one might very likely see others touching famous sculptures, a person could quickly get the idea that it is okay to do this in Florence when it is not okay in Columbus.

    When in Rome.


  3. I walked through the greatest collection of stolen art in the entire world (the Vatican), with a fellow atheist, and neither of us touched any of the art. And I truly admire art; it was my idea to spend the day there (and after four or five hours on our feet, a hardship for my colleague). It is hard for me to imagine having so little self-control, or so much arrogance, or that much ignorance, or whatever it takes to be so utterly stupid.

  4. Florence is the spulling given to that city by the English. It is Firenzia.

  5. The schmuck is from Connecticut or however ya spull it. Someone owes the state of Mizzoura an apology.

  6. Gene H.
    1, August 7, 2013 at 7:46 am
    I think he should be given the finger.
    HAHAHAHAHA! (thanks for that laugh!)

    ok, I’m not a lawyer but I am an artist and a human being so let me just say this…. you KNOW that a piece of art is in the realm of greatness precisely because it begs to be appreciated and in the language of sculpture and other 3D creations that appreciation most often takes a tactile form. I also did not have an adequate level of restraint in Florence….luckily I went for the brass Boar and was with a group that oohed and ahed and helped to hold each other in line. When you see it you will know.. đŸ˜‰ Most of the European museums w/ treasures are well versed in how to prevent this sort of thing that happens when absolute beauty takes our breathe, and the rest of our senses, away…..

  7. A complete and utter disregard for the valuables of others. You’d think an “educated” person would simply understand other’s valuables which is commonly understood. Another ugly American raises his “jackass” for the world to see.

  8. He needs to pay for the restoration and a fine. What an idiot. And for Dog’s sake, keep him away from the David!

  9. I don’t know Italian law but if this act was committed in my state it would be non-criminal because our state requires Intent to damage the property for it to be considered Malicious Mischief. Negligence, a lesser standard, does not satisfy the element. But, in a civil court it certainly can be sufficient to prove damages.

    There is only one law in WA that I can think of that criminalizes property damage for criminal recklessness and that is Reckless Burning.

  10. AY: Actually, touching a piece of art IS a damaging act all by itself, we have oils and dirt on our fingers that can corrode the art, as well ridges and force that however minute can contribute over time to the erosion of the surface. Not just marble but paintings, wood, metal, leather, cloth, just about anything.

    That is why we rope them off in museums. I think by his intent to touch it he was showing disregard for its value and preservation — Mens Rea and Actus Rea together. The fact that the result was more than he intended is not that material to me; a person that punches somebody with the intent of inflicting pain and unintentionally inflicts death still killed somebody; and that can be reflected in their charge and sentence.

  11. Tony,

    Mens Rea and Actus Rea must both be present at the same time generally….. If the person thought about breaking the finger but never showed up….. Is he guilty because of thought….. But if the person touches the statue…. Without the intention to destroy….. Where is the guilty mind….. Touching a piece of art work is not inherently dangerous… Breaking the finger was not foreseeable…

    The bunny costume… Even without the intent of burning…… It was foreseeable that that would occur…..and in that instance intent can be inferred…..

  12. berra, If you click on Gene’s link you’ll see a couple photos of Dr. Broderick where he looks ubriaco.

  13. Gene: I am a human being with a conscience, and I think revered unique works of art are inherently unique and thus have inherent unquantifiable value as well. If it is a print of a Rembrandt or an American Flag that exists by the millions, deface those all you want, it isn’t the symbolism I am concerned with. But if it is a unique original, a hand-written score of Beethoven or Mozart, a Da Vinci sculpture, even a Dead Sea Scroll … Those are irreplaceable and unique and I think those also have an inherently non-quantifiable value.

    I know I could say the same thing about my lawnmower or hedge clippers, they become unique by their history of use. But the fact that there is a broad gray transition area does not mean the extremes are not brightly lit; and in my view art that has survived a century or two certainly falls in the brightly lit category. Copies and symbolism I don’t care about, but some works really are unique and irreplaceable, and in my mind deserve special protection as more than just “property.”

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