Art Historian David Talbot Rice (1903-1972) about the icon of Our Lady of Damascus
On the initiative of the then parish priest Papas Vito Borgia, between 1963 and 1966 the icon of Our Lady of Damascus was meticulously cleaned and restored in the Central Institute of Art Restoration, in Rome, at the expense of the Italian government. The patient work of the restorers, who removed layers of grime and successive over-paintings accumulated during the centuries, brought the picture back to its original beauty.
In 1968, Papas Vito Borgia sent a card with a reproduction of the icon of Our Lady of Damascus to Prof. David Talbot Rice, the famous British byzantinist and art historian at the University of Edinburgh. Papas Vito sought to get Prof. Talbot Rice’s expert and scholarly opinion about the icon. On May 13th 1968, Prof. Talbot Rice sent the following reply to Papas Vito:
Dear Father Borgia,
Thank you for your letter and for the reproduction of the icon, Our Lady of Damascus. I am very glad indeed to have it, as I did not know of this icon. It was certainly well worth cleaning, for it is now a thing of great beauty and historical importance, in addition to being what it was before, an expression of faith. Even [from] the card I am inclined to think that it is of earlier date than Our Lady of Vladimir, though the iconographic style, the Virgin of Tenderness, is the same.
David Talbot Rice