16th century ‘Last Supper’ masterpiece restored, 50 years after epic flood.

An expert calls the damage to Renaissance artist Giorgio Vasari’s The Last Supper “one of the worst cases in conservation history,” the Art Newspaper reports.

The 96-square-foot painting, commissioned by a cloister of Italian nuns in 1546, was submerged underwater for 12 hours when the Arno River in Florence flooded in 1966. According to the AP, the flood killed 100 or so people and damaged thousands of pieces of Renaissance art—despite the best efforts of a group of art-rescuing volunteers called the “angels of the mud.” On Friday, in commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the flood, a newly restored The Last Supper was unveiled to the public.

The Last Supper was believed to be beyond restoration and was kept in storage for 40 years. But by 2008, technology had improved enough to give new hope for Vasari’s work. A team of up to 13 experts worked years on The Last Supper in order to get it ready for Friday’s event at the Basilica of Santa Croce. “It was a long battle, but we made it,” the head of an Italian arts restoration agency says.

The Florentine calls it “an evolutionary step in the field of restoration as well as the culmination of reflections on the safety of artworks and preventive decision-making”—meaning The Last Supper is now attached to a mechanism that will raise it higher on the wall if the Arno decides to breach its banks again in the future.

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