Notorious vandal strikes again

Officals stumped on how to protect the treasures of the signoria

Editorial Staff
October 20, 2005

Last week, serial vandal Piero Cannata damaged the red granite headstone with bronze letters that commemorates the spot where Friar Girolamo Savonarola was burned at the stake in Piazza della Signoria. Cannata has been infamous since 1991, when he visited the Accademia and took a hammer to the David’s left foot.


Michelangelo’s masterpiece was only the first in a series of  vandalism acts committed by Cannata, who has also been charged for damaging Filippino Lippi’s painting “Santo Stefano” and “L’Adorazione” by Bronzino. He has also confessed to vandalising Pollock’s masterpiece in Rome’s Gallery of Modern Art, as well as the Angel Warrior statue, which guards the veteran’s memorial Monumento ai Caduti in Piazza Santa Maria delle Carceri in Prato. In February 2000, Cannata was charged with damaging a sculpture in Museo Marino Marini. These inexplicable acts earned him treatment in the OPG Judiciary Psychiatric Hospital of  Montelupo.


He says he spray-painted a big black X over the circular epigraph simply because “what was written there is nonsense.” Cannata confesses that he carried out two area surveillances before vandalising the headstone under Palazzo Vecchio. As on other occasions, Cannata confessed to the crime by calling the editors of the La Nazione newspaper in Prato. “I’ve struck again,” he said. “I crossed Savonarola’s epigraph out, because they shouldn’t have killed him. That’s why I painted over the red marble, exactly in the place where the monk was hung. In the place where his lifeless body was burned!”


Cannata is not the only one attacking Italy’s patrimony, however: graffiti is scrawled over the façades of historic palaces, chewing gum is stuck to statues, and Doric columns are encrusted with years of city smog. Italy, a small country that boasts more than half of the world’s artistic wealth, is nothing short of an open-air museum. Thousands flock to her art cities each year, and many are shocked to see the state of decay of hundreds of Italian treasures. Why? You don’t have to go far to prove that vandalism, pollution, and atmospheric conditions rank as the main causes of deterioration of artwork. The real question becomes just how to protect Italy’s cultural heritage, especially when many Italian towns are open-air museums whose needs don’t easily lend themselves to the necessities of modern living.


The fight against vandalism is indeed becoming an urgent issue in the centre of Florence, as city officials continue to search for new ways to protect the treasures of the Signoria. The most commonly targeted work of art in Florence remains the Fountain of Neptune, which has been vandalised six times since 1981. Regardless of how many sworn guards, hidden cameras, and custodians are placed in the piazza, officials seem unable to keep the city’s artistic wealth safe, especially outdoors.

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