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Italy: Art restorers unveil masterpiece damaged in winter

Associated Press logo Associated Press 1/06/2017 By COLLEEN BARRY, Associated Press
A visitor takes a photo with her phone at "Christ at the Column" by 15th century Italian painter Donato Bramante following its restoration, at the Brera Gallery in Milan, Italy, Thursday, June 1, 2017. Bramante’s oil-on-wood masterpiece was the most important of about 40 paintings that suffered damaged when the Brera’s humidity control system failed during a rare dry, cold spell in January. (AP Photo/Luca Bruno) © The Associated Press A visitor takes a photo with her phone at "Christ at the Column" by 15th century Italian painter Donato Bramante following its restoration, at the Brera Gallery in Milan, Italy, Thursday, June 1, 2017. Bramante’s oil-on-wood masterpiece was the most important of about 40 paintings that suffered damaged when the Brera’s humidity control system failed during a rare dry, cold spell in January. (AP Photo/Luca Bruno)

MILAN — After more than four months of work, the Brera Art Gallery in Milan unveiled on Thursday a fully restored Donato Bramante painting after it suffered damage due to excessive dryness over the winter.

The oil-on-panel 15th century masterpiece "Christ at the Column" was the most important of about 40 paintings damaged when the Brera's humidity control system failed during a rare dry, cold spell in January.

None of the paintings lost color or suffered permanent damage, said chief restorer Andrea Carini.

"Christ of the Column" had long ago been dubbed a "chronic patient" due to its fragility, as paint does not cleave well to wood.

"At a certain point, after 500 years, this capacity of the materials to hold themselves together ... fails," Carini said.

Restorers sprayed Bramante's painting with a special foam to stop it from losing color and let it set for about 20 days. They also made long-planned interventions including replacing the varnish.

The restoration work also allowed experts to look underneath the paint using infrared and see previously unknown details, said Paolo Borghese, another Brera restorer. That included Bramante's fingerprints on Christ's bellybutton and at the tips of his hair, indicating the artist had used a technique to smudge the paint that was gaining popularity in his era.

The Brera has installed a state-of-the-art climate stabilizing system inside the frame on Bramante's work to help avoid similar emergencies in the future.

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