American Tourist Knocks Finger Off 14th Century Statue in Italy

Museum director outraged by tourists' lack of museum etiquette.

ByABC News
August 6, 2013, 9:38 AM

Aug. 6, 2013— -- In an accident of historic measure, an American tourist to Florence's Museo dell'Opera del Duomo, is fortunate today that the motto "You break it, You buy it" didn't apply. A finger from a 14th century statue on display was broken off when the unnamed visitor got too close to the priceless statue.

The incident happened when the American began touching the statue. A security guard who spotted him didn't arrive in time to prevent the damage as the finger from the masterpiece by medieval sculptor Giovanni d'Ambrogio separated from the hand. The signs reminding visitors not to touch the artwork were clearly ignored.

Ambra Nepi, the head of communications for Florence's famous marble Duomo, says that it was an unfortunate accident. The finger, in fact, was not part of the original artwork, which had been damaged and repaired years earlier.

"This was already a very fragile piece of art," she said. "But every year throughout the Duomo we have many items that are damaged and broken."

The full-time team of art restorers had already looked at the damage.

"We are confident that it can be eventually restored," Nepi said.

The Museo dell'Opera does not have surveillance security cameras, but the exhibitions are monitored by security guards watching the rooms.

"This happened very quickly," Nepi added.

Media reports quoted the American director of the museum, Monsignor Timothy Verdon, as being outraged by tourists' lack of museum etiquette. "In a globalized world like ours, the fundamental rules for visiting a museum have been forgotten, that is: Do not touch the works."

The museum has not pressed any charges and is now trying to minimize at least the media damage from the event. The tourist was taken to a local police station for questioning and a statement.