A 3-year-old boy survived after falling two stories and landing on a framed painting of “The Last Supper” Wednesday in a case that some have called divine intervention.
But was it a miracle? Art restorationists and a review of child safety literature said not likely.
Police said the boy’s mother left him in the bathroom while she went to get soap and pajamas to prepare him for a bath. When she returned, he was gone.
The boy’s mother told the Philadelphia Daily News that he was laying on the painting when she looked out the window.
The painting was on top of a grassy surface, but had been propped against the side of the house by the boy’s grandmother.
The child was treated at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and released.
But questions remain about whether the painting saved the boy from serious injury.
Art restorationists said that some types of canvas would be strong enough to cushion someone from a fall.
The plausibility of being saved by a painted depends on how thick the canvas was, how high the canvas was off the ground and how much the child weighed, according to restorationists.
“If a kid fell on a painting that was 3-feet off the ground, that would be like a fire net,” said Peter Williams, a Boston-based art restorationist. But Williams said he doubted a painting laying on the ground would provide much of a cushion because a canvas would still stretch by at least that margin to bring the child in contact with the ground.
William diMarco, a Philadelphia conservationist who has restored damaged painting for 15 years, said that reproductions tend to be painted on the thinnest of canvasses, and that some are on cardboard.
That would increase the chances that a child would crash right through it.
The Centers for Disease Control said that falls are the leading cause of non-fatal injuries in children under 19.
A 1999 study in the Journal of Pediatric Surgery of 64 children who had fallen at least 10 feet found that 86 percent sustained one major injury — ranging from a broken bone to spinal cord damage to head trauma.
Two of the children in the survey walked away. One died — but that child fell more than 50 feet.
A survey in the Journal of Injury Prevention of 90 children who had fallen from windows in Chicago found that 98 percent of falls occurred from the 3rd floor or lower. Three children in that study died.