New Clue to Identity of American Tourist in Italian Statue-Gate

By ABC News

Aug 7, 2013 12:16pm

Italian investigators have released another clue in the case of the American tourist who delivered the snap heard around the world when he broke a finger off a priceless 14th century statue.

Florence police told ABC News the tourist was  a Connecticut man who was born in Missouri. Authorities did not release his full name but said his initials were P.B.

The man was reportedly an emergency surgeon at a Connecticut hospital, making the case of the broken finger somewhat  ironic. He was not, however, operating with surgeon’s hands while visiting Florence’s Museo dell’Opera del Duomo last weekend.

According to reports, the man was measuring the finger on a 600-year-old marble statue of the Virgin Mary against his own finger when he accidentally broke the work of art.  A security guard spotted him but didn’t arrive in time to prevent the damage to the finger of the masterpiece by medieval sculptor Giovanni d’Ambrogio.

The museum does have signs reminding visitors not to touch the artwork.

“In a globalized world like ours, the fundamental rules for visiting a museum have been forgotten, that is: Do not touch the works.” Timothy Verndon, the American director of the museum, has been quoted as saying.

Museum officials said they were “confident,” however, that the finger, which was not part of the original artwork, could be “eventually restored.”  The finger was made of plaster, not marble, as it had been damaged and repaired years earlier.

The American tourist was said to have apologized after the accident. He was taken to a local police station for questioning and a statement, but the museum has not pressed charges.

While the Connecticut man is making headlines for his high-profile “oops” moment, he is not the first person to damage a valuable work of art.

In 2010, a woman accidentally ripped a $130 million painting by Pablo Picasso when she fell against it at New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art.  Her spill caused a 6-inch gash in the lower right-hand corner of the canvas,  which the museum was able to restore.

In 2006, casino mogul Steve Wynn accidentally put his elbow through Picasso’s famous painting “Le Reve”  as he was preparing to sell it.

The sale was rescinded at the time, but Wynn sold the restored painting last year to hedge fund billionaire Steven Cohen for a reported $150 million.

ABC News’ Clark Bentson contributed to this report.

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