Saving At-Risk Art in Florence and Venice: A New Partnership Commemorates 50th Anniversary of Devastating 1966 Floods

From the Monuments Men of World War II to the “Mud Angels” who rescued art and books in Florence and the art historians in Venice who responded to the November 1966 floods, Americans have played a substantial role in preserving cultural treasures in Italy.

Today Save Venice Inc. and the Friends of Florence Foundation launch a new preservation initiative in commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the two great floods in Italy when the water in Venice’s Piazza San Marco rose to an unprecedented height of 194 cm. (6’4”), and the Arno overflowed its banks, leaving up to five meters (16’ 5”) of water in parts of Florence. The U.S.-based non-profit organizations will collaborate for the first time on restoration projects in Florence and Venice designed to highlight and respond to urgent conservation needs.

Scheduled for unveiling in November 2016, the joint projects demonstrate the interconnected histories of art and preservation in Italy. In Florence, Save Venice and Friends of Florence will fund conservation treatment of 48 drawings by the Venetian artist Giovanni Battista Tiepolo (1692–1770) at the Horne Museum. In Venice, Friends of Florence and Save Venice will contribute to restoration of a major Tuscan panel painting from the early fourteenth century, Virgin and Child Enthroned with Angels, by the Maestro di Badia a Isola (active 1290–1320), a contemporary of Duccio, in the Palazzo Cini Gallery.

Matthew White, chairman of Save Venice said, “Save Venice was born in response to the floods of 1966 so it is fitting that we commemorate the anniversary with what we do best—restore cultural treasures. We are proud to partner with Friends of Florence and hope that this collaboration underscores the continued urgency to preserve irreplaceable artwork in both Venice and Florence for future generations.”

“We are delighted to join forces with Save Venice, which has been a continuing inspiration for our work,” said Simonetta Brandolini d’Adda, founder and president of Friends of Florence. “Lessons learned from the flood show that fifty years on, we still need to do the utmost to protect the important artistic treasures, both grand and small, that truly form the basis of Western civilization. The Italian government cannot possibly safeguard all the treasures found here. Our members are thrilled to partner with Save Venice to preserve our common cultural heritage.”

The Save Venice-Friends of Florence preservation partnership was developed to honor the 50th anniversary of a natural disaster that transformed international awareness of the importance of heritage preservation. The November 1966 floods in northern and central Italy marked a turning point in international recognition of the need to preserve endangered art and architecture. In the succeeding decades, Save Venice and Friends of Florence have made a measurable impact on cultural preservation in Italy, pioneered new methods in art conservation, and served as influential models of private philanthropy.

Save Venice Inc. is dedicated to preserving the artistic heritage of Venice. Based in New York with an office in Venice and chapters in Boston and California, Save Venice has raised more than $25 million to restore hundreds of works of art and architecture in Venice since the organization’s incorporation in 1971.

Friends of Florence is dedicated to preserving the artistic heritage of Florence. Based in Washington, D.C. with an office in Florence and chapters in Aspen, Chicago, and Florence, the U.S. non-profit foundation has raised more than $10 million since 1998 to restore paintings, sculptures, and architectural elements in museums, churches and public sites in Florence and Tuscany