An elderly American tourist fell into – and tore up – a 17th-century religious painting by Guido Reni at Rome’s Galleria Borghese


Living the nightmare of any museum visitor who brushed too closely against a painting during an exhibition, a tourist in Rome came across Baroque artist Guido Reni Saint Francis receiving the stigmata (1610–12). Officials described the damage as a “minor surface tear” of an inch and a half in the lower part of the paint.

Guards cordoned off the area immediately after the incident, which took place at the Galleria Borghese on Wednesday afternoon. The tourist was identified as an elderly American and the museum released a statement suggesting she may be feeling ill.

italy Corriere della Sera instead suggested that the fall could have occurred due to the work being installed on a low platform, which caused a reporter to trip as the show opened. A few visiting members of the public also reportedly reported similar incidents.

Protective tape has been applied to the tear in the paint, which is still exposed. © Borghese Gallery.

The work is one of 30 featured in the “Guido Reni and Rome: Nature and Devotion” exhibition, which opened on March 1. It had been loaned from the Museo di Roma to the Palazzo Braschi and remains on display with a protective adhesive covering the tear, a conservation procedure known as “facing”.

The exhibition, which runs until May 1, is the first of a new international series dedicated to Guido Reni. It is centered around its country dance (circa 1605), a painting acquired by the museum in 2020 which returns to its collection after being sold off in the 19th century. It is hoped that the work will help complete the account of the artist’s early years in Rome, when he was engaged in pastoral themes, as well as highlighting the importance of Borghese’s patronage.

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