On this Thanksgiving week the good folks at USC are doing their part to save Leonardo Da Vinci's “Last Supper” from the ills of modern-day air pollution. (Unfortunately, they couldn't save it from the visual pollution of the above UC Davis-pepper-spray-cop meme).

Constantinos Sioutas, professor of civil and environmental engineering at USC, has designed “air samplers” to ensure that no smog or pollution is affecting the masterpiece that has endured for centuries.

The masterwork was threatened by pollution before the Italians decided to do something in 2009, including installing “a sophisticated heating, ventilation, and air conditioning system to protect the painting from the polluted air of Milan,” according to USC.

It includes an “airlock-style chamber,” the school states. Visitors can only gaze for 15 minutes at a time.

Sioutas was called in to test that system. His devices are described by the school as “unobtrusive … compact and quiet” — something you'd want in the refectory of Santa Maria Delle Grazie Church, the work's Milanese home.

According to USC a study about the level of air pollution around the painting will be released next month. So far so good, it indicates, but people viewing the work are a problem (so stop breathing, tourists).

USC says …

… Fine and coarse particulate matter concentrations were reduced around the painting by 88 and 94 percent, respectively from their corresponding outdoor levels.

Professor Sioutas:

It's a spectacular reduction. It is, frankly, very impressive.


LA Weekly