Italian Masterpiece Under Threat From 'Ancient' Air Conditioning

Well-maintained air conditioning units are essential at Italy's Borghese Gallery, the museum that houses centuries-old Raphael painting The Deposition, and priceless works by Caravaggio, as well as important works by Rubens, Titian, Pinturicchio and Perugino.

However the masterpieces, dating back to the Renaissance, are under threat from humid temperatures inside the popular tourist venue.

The Deposition, which depicts Christ being carried from the cross and was painted in 1507, is one of the paintings most at risk from humidity in the gallery. With an efficient and well maintained air conditioning or portable drying system in place damage could be halted. Currently it's warping dramatically, experts have warned. The painting, also known as The Entombment, is particularly at risk because it is painted on a wooden panel rather than on more flexible canvas.

The current AC system was installed in 1997 and has been poorly maintained. The gallery itself was built in the early 17th century.

Curators at the museum have been begging for months for repairs or replacement of the the air-conditioning system, but said that officials in the Italian government have failed to carry out their requests.

Kristina Hermann Fiore, a former director of the museum, said the broken air-conditioning system combined with hot weather during late spring had put the paintings at risk. Immediate action is needed, she stressed.