While leading his art history class through the Church of Santa Bibiana in late April, professor Giovan Battista Fidanza was shocked to discover a finger missing from Bernini’s statue of St. Bibiana. The sculpture, recently featured in Galleria Borghese’s highly lauded exhibition on the artist, lost its ring finger when art handlers were returning the work to its main altar in the church. For some art lovers, like Fidanza, the snapping of the digit is a huge loss. “The integrity of the work is lost forever,” Fidanza told the New York Times, adding that the severed finger, “is a wound to the Baroque era.” The parish priest, Rev. Augusto Frateschi, was grateful for the clean break. “At least it didn’t pulverize; it came off in one piece,” he told the Times. According to the paper, the event, which has been covered extensively in the Italian media, also reignited an old debate about loaning the country’s prized pieces of cultural heritage for exhibitions. “We know that moving works of art is always a huge stress for them,” Fidanza told the paper.
Bernini’s figure of St. Bibiana, which dates back to 1624, had its finger reattached by a team of conservators last week.