Coronavirus threatens to thwart Italian art exhibition

The paintings, drawings, tapestries and sketches in the most ambitious exhibition of Renaissance superstar Raphael’s works are collectively insured for 4 billion euros (NZ$7.07 billion) against theft, vandalism or other damages.

But no money can guarantee that Italy’s outbreak of coronavirus, the largest in Europe, won’t play havoc with the three-month run in Rome of this year’s eagerly-awaited art blockbuster.

Nervousness was palpable at a preview Wednesday that the Italian government’s increasingly restrictive measures aimed at containing the outbreak might prematurely shut down the “Raffaello” exhibition, which is being mounted to mark the 500th anniversary of his death.

The project brings together 120 works by Raphael, including from collections ranging from those of Queen Elizabeth II to some of the world’s most prestigious museums. Entitled “Raffaello 1520-1483,” the exhibition opens Thursday in the Scuderie del Quirinale, an 18th-century former stables converted into an elegant palazzo.

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