A court in Italy has rejected a last-minute bid to halt the loan of Leonardo da Vinci’s iconic Vitruvian Man drawing and other of his works to France’s Louvre museum, ending a bitter cultural row between the European nations.
The Venetian court ruled against the bid after the group Italia Nostra filed a complaint saying the drawing was too fragile to travel. The pieces are due to appear at the Paris museum to mark the 500th anniversary of the Italian artist’s death.
The drawing is insured for at least €1 billion, said Italian media. And the court cited “the exceptional global relevance of the (Louvre) exhibition and (Italy’s) desire to maximise its heritage potential” in overturning the bid to stop the loan from happening.
The Vitruvian Man is kept in a climate-controlled vault at the Accademia Gallery in Venice and is rarely displayed to the public. The 35cm by 25cm drawing depicts the proportions of the human body according to Roman architect Vitruvius.
A man is shown with his legs apart and together in two superimposed images within a square and a circle, in a supremely Renaissance combination of art and mathematics.
The court also put on hold a bid to stop the accord signed in September in Paris between Italy’s culture ministry and the Louvre for a swap of works for the Renaissance master’s quincentennial next year.
Rome is lending several da Vinci works to the Louvre for its exhibition this month, and in return, paintings and drawings by Raphael, an Italian painter and architect of the High Renaissance, are to be loaned to Italy for a Roman exhibition in March next year.
“Now, the great Italian-French cultural operation of the two exhibitions on Leonardo in Paris and Raphael in Rome can start,” Italy’s Cultural Heritage Minister Dario Franceschini tweeted after the ruling.
The loan had been questioned by Italy’s former right-wing government, which railed against the idea of sending da Vinci to Paris. The previous government, which included the far-right League, had repeated disputes with France, in particular with President Emmanuel Macron on immigration issues.
However, the court hailed “the value of collaboration and exchange between States (and) the improved image and recognition of Venice’s Accademia Gallery”.
With fewer than 20 da Vinci paintings in existence, many Italians are resentful that the Louvre possesses five of them, as well as 22 drawings. The Renaissance genius was born in Tuscany, Italy, but died in the French town of Amboise in 1519 at the age of 67.
Italia Nostra said its motives were not political, but aimed at safeguarding a national treasure. It said the Vitruvian Man risked tearing and those who had given the green light for it to travel had not removed it from its case to examine it properly. – AFP