Italy livid about deal to loan Leonardo works to Lou­vre

The Progress-Index Weekend - - OBITUARIES - By Frances D’Emilio As­so­ci­ated Press

ROME — 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” sovereignty-cham­pi­oning party in the nearly six­month-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 four-months-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.

One of the three paint­ings, “Ado­ra­tion of the Magi,” only came back to the Uf­fizi last year, af­ter five years of restora­tion work in Florence.

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.

The Uf­fizi di­rec­tor at the time op­posed that loan, but the then-cul­ture min­is­ter de­cided that the paint­ing’s trans­fer as good for Italy.

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.

Sch­midt sounded hope­ful the Lou­vre would un­der­stand the Uf­fizi’s re­fusal.

“We fully un­der­stand why the ‘Mona Lisa’ can­not travel,” he said, referring to the Lou­vre’s star Leonardo paint­ing.

But while the Lou­vre won’t ever let the por­trait of the woman with the fas­ci­nat­ing smile leave its con­fines, it did send two other Leonardo paint­ings to Mi­lan for an ex­hi­bi­tion dur­ing the 2015 Expo in that north­ern Ital­ian city. In all, the Lou­vre has five of his paint­ings, the most of any one mu­seum.

An­niver­sary com­mit­tee head Paolo Gal­luzzi, who di­rects the Galileo Mu­seum in Florence, in­sisted that na­tion­al­ism wasn’t a fac­tor in eval­u­at­ing an­niver­sary pro­pos­als.

“Many could claim him. He was born in Vinci, trained in Florence, and de­vel­oped in Mi­lan,” Gal­luzzi said by tele­phone. “Politi­cians have dif­fer­ent op­tics,” but in the “world of cul­ture and sci­ence we don’t bother with these things.”

Ul­ti­mately, he said, what is be­ing cel­e­brated next year is a “univer­sal ge­nius.”


In this June 1, 2016 file photo, vis­i­tors crowded in front of Leonardo da Vinci’s paint­ing ‘Mona Lisa’ at Mus‡©e du Lou­vre in Paris. Leonardo da Vinci is of­ten hailed as the most univer­sal ge­nius. Not for ItalyþÄôs na­tion­al­ist govern­ment, which is livid that the Lou­vre is count­ing on Ital­ian mu­se­ums to lend many of the na­tive Ital­ian na­tive’s mas­ter­pieces for a block­buster ex­hibit in Paris.

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