May 18, 2020 / 6:45 PM / 13 days ago

Rome's coronavirus-hit Raphael exhibition to reopen in June

ROME (Reuters) - An exhibition commemorating the 500th anniversary of the death of Renaissance artist Raphael will reopen on June 2 in Rome and its run extended until Aug.30, after it fell foul of the COVID-19 lockdown.

The show at the Scuderie del Quirinale Gallery opened on March 5 but closed just three days later as COVID-19, the respiratory disease caused by the new coronavirus, spread across Italy.

It had been due to finish on June 2, but its organisers said in a statement on Monday they had reached an agreement with museums around the world, including Madrid’s Prado, London’s National Gallery and the Washington National Gallery of Art, to extend the loans of their masterpieces for three months.

Raffaello Sanzio da Urbino, known in the English-speaking world as Raphael, was born in 1483 and died aged just 37 after a sudden illness in Rome. He was one of the most celebrated artists of his age.

“The exhibition offers the opportunity to admire a concentration of Raphael works that we have never seen in the same venue,” said Eike Schmidt, director of Florence’s Uffizi museum.

“We are very happy to extend the loan of about 50 masterpieces for as long as necessary”, he added.

During the lockdown the artworks have been covered up but the exhibition has never been dismantled because the curators had hoped for a restart.

Some 70,000 tickets had been sold in online sales before the first opening to the public, for an exhibition that brings together 204 works of art, including 120 by Raphael himself.

As the number of daily COVID-19 cases and deaths decreases the government is relaxing lockdown restrictions imposed to curb the spread of the virus. However,t social distancing rules remain quite stringent and only a very few people at a time will be admitted to the show.

Reporting by Angelo Amante; Editing by Gareth Jones

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