An account by Massimo Fabbri (I)
"I was 35 years old at the time of the flood in 1966 and at the height of my profession. Three colleagues and I ran the restoration laboratory that was situated on the ground floor of the Uffizi Gallery and it was flooded out completely. You can imagine what a tragedy this was, both for the works that had already been restored, as well as those that were waiting for our intervention, for which, however, we were still responsible.
It was vital to immediately start salvaging the various art works because if they stayed wet they were in danger of "exploding", especially the frescoes. Private sponsors were particularly helpful in contributing towards the restoration of the frescoes because Governmental intervention was totally lacking at the time.
We developed a close collaboration with all our colleagues in the field in order to try and salvage as many works of art as we could, in spite of the terrible damage they had suffered. We tried to make an estimate of the actual number of damaged works. Once we had studied each particular case, we were able to calculate the eventual consequences and take the necessary measures. There were several techniques in use for drying out the frescoes, the Germans, for example, dried them by heating up the wall behind them.
We were inventing new techniques every day. We went to bed racking our brains as to how to solve the problems related to the art work we were restoring at that particular moment. We resolved the problem of the paintings by taking them to the Lemonary in the Boboli Gardens to prevent them from drying out completely because we knew that the most dangerous moment was when the works were completely dry; this became even more serious when dealing with frescoes.
We often found paintings that were so badly damaged that we were unable to recognize them. All the work we carried out in those years led to the development, experimentation and invention of new techniques in the Seventies that was quite unique. We had to attempt some very daring solutions which however were also to confirm our theories. It was an enforced stimulus, an enormous job, which mobilized all the branches of knowledge and was to greatly encourage us in our work. Many of the things we know today are the result of all our hard work in that period".
Prof. Alfio Del Serra is one of the restorers for the art works at the Uffizi. The "Venus" by Botticelli is one of the many paintings he has restored in the past.