Leonardo da Vinci – A Bone of Contention between Italy and the Louvre

Source: FSSPX News

The 500th anniversary of the death of Leonardo da Vinci has given rise to a controversy between France and Italy, and the loan of several of the famous artist’s paintings to the Louvre Museum is at stake.

The year 2019 will be the five-hundredth anniversary of the death of Leonardo da Vinci. In 2020, it will be the five-hundredth anniversary of the death of Raphael. In 2017, an agreement was signed stipulating that in exchange for the loan of several works by Raphael for an exhibit in Rome in 2020, the Louvre would be lent several paintings by Leonardo da Vinci for an exhibit in Paris in the fall of 2019. But the terms of the agreement are now being denounced by the Italian government. 

The director of the Uffizi Gallery in Florence, Eike Schmidt, is adamant: “Our three paintings – the Adoration of the Magi, the Annunciation, and the Baptism of Christ – have been listed since 2009 as works that cannot be lent,” because of the condition they are in.

But the Italian Secretary of State for Culture, Lucia Borgonzoni, has given a different reason for this refusal: “Leonardo is an Italian, he simply died in France (…). Loaning these paintings to the Louvre would leave Italy on the outskirts of a major cultural event,” she declared to the AFP on December 18, 2018, adding, “Respecting the independence of the museums cannot mean putting national interests in second place; the French can’t have everything.” She believes that “everything needs to be discussed all over” now. 

Jean-Yves Frétigné, the coauthor of La France et l’Italie. Histoire de deux nations sœurs (France and Italy. The History of Two Sister Nations), explained this rivalry between the French and Italians to the AFP:

On one hand there is Italy that claims to be the elder sister because with Rome, she is the matrix of Western art, and on the other hand there is France that feels superior to her neighbor and prefers to turn to Germany or at a certain time England.

Not to mention the Napoleonic campaigns that left a bad taste in the mouth of the Italians, since hundreds of works of art were taken or bought under questionable circumstances. Some speak of pillage. But this is not the case with the Mona Lisa, that Leonardo da Vinci sold to King Francis I of France in 1518.