ROME – Italian authorities on Wednesday announced the installation of a new air conditioning system in the refectory of a convent that hosts one of the Renaissance’s most iconic masterpieces: Leonardo da Vinci’s “The Last Supper.”
The new system is to protect the late 15th-century mural painting from the accumulation of dust and the hundreds of thousands of visitors that admire it every year at the Convent of Santa Maria delle Grazie, located in the northern Italian city of Milan.
“We have always supported Italian products and biodiversity to defend as well our country’s incomparable artistic heritage,” said Eataly, the largest Italian food retailer in the world, which is donating one million euros ($1.08 million) to the project.
The new AC system is also set to receive 1.2 million euros from Italy’s Ministry of Cultural Heritage and Activities and Tourism.
The project, titled “A Supper You Cannot Miss,” promises to prolong the painting’s life for another 500 years following its exhaustive restoration completed in 1999.
According to Eataly, the fresco suffers a “slow deterioration every day” due to the dust particles that accumulate on the walls of the refectory (originally a dining room for nuns).
The ventilation system’s installation is scheduled for 2019, a year that coincides with the 500th anniversary of Da Vinci’s death.
It will pump some 10,000 cubic meters (353,147 cubic feet) of clean air into the refectory, compared to the 3,500 cubic meters currently circulating through the hall.
Eataly said it would also launch a public awareness campaign to draw attention to the preservation of Da Vinci’s ouevre and to invite tourists and Italians alike to visit the convent and contemplate The Last Supper.
In its stores – which are spread out through Italy but also present in the United States, Saudi Arabia, Japan, South Korea and Denmark – customers will be able to book a 50-minute visit to the refectory instead of the 15 minutes that are usually allocated per person.
Italy’s culture minister, Dario Franceschini, praised the collaboration between the public and private sectors to save works of art and called on other CEOs to imitate Eataly’s head, Oscar Farinetti.
“Through innovation, we will allow more visitors to see Leonardo’s marvelous Last Supper,” Franceschini added. “This will triple the number of visits.”
Currently, only 1,320 visits per day are permitted, which requires booking them a long time in advance.