The Uffizi Gallery in Florence has announced its plans to restore Leonardo da Vinci’s Adoration of the Magi. It is to be the final phase in the restoration of the triad of the master’s works in the museum: the Baptism of Christ, a painting produced by Andrea del Verrocchio’s workshop with contributions by Leonardo, was cleaned in 1999, followed by the Annunciation in 2000. While the Uffizi has just made public its decision, the Louvre in Paris has recently declared that they would not carry forth any restoration of the Leonardo’s Mona Lisa because of the fragility of his pictorial technique. We are puzzled that the authorities in Florence are not taking the Louvre’s more conservative approach into account, particularly in light of the Adoration’s special status as an unfinished picture. Both philosophically and methodologically, the restoration of an unfinished work of art certainly creates a different set of problems than a finished painting.
Because our ultimate concern is the long-term preservation and care of the Adoration, we would concede that if there were determined to be urgent conservational requirements, these should be carried out. However, these should be aimed at stabilizing the painting and halting further deterioration, rather than aesthetic alteration.
We the undersigned urge Soprintendente Paolucci, Direttrice Anna Maria Petrioli Toffani of the Uffizi and the other officials involved in Florence to postpone any intervention that would affect the appearance of the painting until the situation can be adequately evaluated by international experts, art connoisseurs, and the interested public, as well as the community of artists. Because so much is at stake, the need for the restoration must be determined, and its intended methods and goals defined, before any action is taken.