Raphael versus Mother Nature
Professor, Queen’s University
Several of Raphael’s paintings suffered ruin from natural disasters, ultimately limiting the overall impact of his art through time. Although the danger to cultural heritage of the environment is well known from catastrophes such as the burial of Pompeii in 79 C.E., the global threat posed by climate change for the future is just being acknowledged. In this consideration of how Mother Nature has compromised the afterlife of Raphael, Vasari’s account of how the Spasimo di Sicilia survived a storm at sea, and the fragmentation of the Madonna del Cardellino in a landslide will be examined in passing, but emphasis will be placed on the virtual destruction of Raphael’s early Coronation of St. Nicholas of Tolentino altarpiece in the earthquake of 1789 in Città di Castello. Technical examination and conservation research will provide insight into the damage and restoration experienced by the paintings.