ART WORLD NEWS: Italy backpedals on promise to loan Leonardo da Vinci works to France for anniversary exhibition

Posted by Edward Kurstak on

To celebrate the 500th anniversary of Leonardo da Vinci’s death at Amboise in France’s Loire Valley, the Musée de Louvre planned to pay tribute with an exhibition putting together nearly one-third of the artist’s entire body of verified works. However, due to geopolitical tensions between Italy and France, one of the most-awaited shows of the decade may not happen—at least in full—after all.

In November, Lucia Borgonzoni, an undersecretary to Italy’s culture minister—who both represent the country’s new far-right nationalist party, called League—announced the ministry of culture would not honor previously agreed-upon loans of da Vinci’s works to the Louvre from their own collection. Incidentally, the esteemed Parisian museum had requested to showcase every painting the Italian state currently owns.

As Artnet reports, Italy’s about-face aligns with the League’s “Italians First” agenda, claiming in the “Italian newspaper Courier della Sera that fulfilling the French museum’s request would ‘put Italy on the margins of a major cultural event.’ Calling the agreement ‘unbelievable,’ [Italian state leaders] opined, ‘Leonardo is Italian; he only died in France.”   

This is not the first time the countries have openly struggled to come to agreements about sharing works by the Italian master. Just as recently as 2013, the Louvre rejected the city of Florence’s request to bring the Mona Lisa back to da Vinci—and the painting’s—country of origin.

However, this recent disagreement—and Italy’s backpedaling on a promise—shouldn’t be surprising. Recently, Matteo Salvini, the League leader, and Emmanuel Macron, the French president, have been publicly aiming insults at each other regarding populist ideology and immigration, and diplomatic relations between the two European states have begun to take a nosedive.

Still, both French and Italian culture officials remain hopeful they can come to an agreement with and secure the loan.

“We’ve stopped everything and the ministry is taking it into our hands now,” the Telegraph has reported Ms. Borgonzoni as saying. “Of course we are willing to sit at the table to discuss the Louvre’s wish list, but in the spirit of reciprocal respect, which in past years has been missing.”