A PRICELESS set of tapestries by famed Renaissance artist Raphael are in danger of being seriously damaged by pigeons.
Madrid’s Royal Palace has nine of the works on show. They may have lasted half a millennium unscathed, but now feathered pests who have taken up residence in the gallery are putting them in peril by potentially bombarding the woven art pieces with droppings.
The Acts of the Apostles were created for Pope Leo X in 1515 to grace the Vatican’s Sistine Chapel.
The originals, which show scenes from the lives of St Peter and Paul, were created in a Brussels workshop using Raphael’s sketches and featuring gold and silver silk and wool yarns.
They are the artist’s only known tapestry designs and the last major project he completed before his death in 1520.
The pigeon-afflicted tapestries on display at the Royal Palace are not the originals, but replicas using Raphael’s original designs.
European monarchs were so impressed with the pieces that several ordered copies that were made using the same sketches – including Phillip II of Spain.
These are the ones that have been on show since Novemberto commemorate the 500th anniversary of Raphael’s death.
It is only in recent weeks that pigeons have become a problem. Staff have opened windows to let air in – and with the breeze have come the birds.
Two ultrasonic devices have been installed to try and stop the pigeons from entering the spaces where the tapestries are hung. And staff are keeping a hawks eye open to make sure none of the avian visitors settle down to nest.