Italy livid about deal to loan da Vinci works to Louvre
So versatile were Leonardo da Vinci’s talents in art and science and so boundless his visionary imagination, he is known to the world as the universal genius.
But not to Italy’s nationalist-tilting government, which is livid about plans by the Louvre museum in Paris for a blockbuster exhibit next year with as many as possible Leonardo masterpieces loaned from Italian museums to mark the
500th anniversary of the Renaissance artist’s death.
“It’s unfair, a mistaken deal,” Italian Culture Ministry Undersecretary Lucia Borgonzoni said of a 2017 agreement between a previous government and the Louvre.
“Leonardo is an Italian genius,” she told The Associated Press this week.
Borgonzoni is a senator from the League, the “Italians-first” sovereigntychampioning party in the nearly six-month-old populist government.
She was elaborating on comments earlier this month, in Italian daily Corriere della Sera, in which she said of Leonardo: “In France, all he did was die.”
Leonardo was born in 1452 in the Tuscan town of Vinci, Italy, and died in Amboise, France, in 1519.
Borgonzoni criticized how as part of the 2017 arrangement, Italy also pledged to program its own exhibits so they won’t compete with the Louvre mega-show.
The Louvre declined to comment on Italy’s objections, nor say which artworks it requested from Italy, noting it’s nearly a year before the fourmonths-long exhibit opens on Oct. 24, 2019.
Exhibit curator, Vincent Delieuvin, part of the Louvre’s staff, also serves on the Italian Culture Ministry’s committee which evaluated proposals from museums worldwide for the celebrations. He didn’t reply to an emailed request for comment.
“While respecting the autonomy of museums, national interests can’t be put in second place,” Borgonzoni told Corriere. “The French can’t have everything.”
And it appears they won’t get all they want.
The Uffizi Galleries in Florence is considering loaning the Louvre several Leonardo drawings. But director Eike D. Schmidt said his museum is nixing the Louvre’s request for its stellar trio of Leonardo paintings because “simply, these works are so extremely fragile. No museum in the world would ever lend them.”
Last summer, when the three Leonardos were moved one flight up in the Uffizi so they would have a room all to themselves, the transfer required preparations “like it was an expedition to Mount Everest, or a space trip to the Moon,” with restoration experts on hand just in case anything got damaged, Schmidt said in a phone interview.
In 2007, when “Annunciation,” a painting on wood by a 20-year-old Leonardo depicting the Archangel Gabriel proffering a lily to the Virgin, was about to leave the Uffizi for a Tokyo exhibition, a senator from the conservative Forza Italia (Let’s Go Italy) party and several Florentines chained themselves to a museum gate in a vain attempt to thwart the precious masterpiece from being flown to Japan.
For the 2019 celebrations, the Uffizi will loan an early Leonardo work, “Landscape Drawing for Santa Maria Della Neve,” to the Leonardiano Museum in Vinci. Depicting the countryside near Vinci, the drawing is displayed only for a few weeks every four years because of fears prolonged exposure to light will damage it.
Italian Sen. Paolo Amato, left, and some Florentine citizens chain themselves to the gates of the Uffizi museum in Florence, Italy, to protest the loan of Leonardo da Vinci’s ‘Annunciation’ to Japan’s National Museum in Tokyo.