Leonardo da Vinci, The Annunciation, c. 1472. Courtesy the Uffizi Gallery, Florence, via Wikimedia Commons.
In 1911, Vincenzo Peruggia stole the Mona Lisa (1503-19) to restore it to Italy, and now, more than 100 years later, that streak of nationalism is standing in the way of a 2019 Louvre retrospective celebrating Leonardo da Vinci 500 years after his death.
Junior culture minister Lucia Bergonzoni of the far-right Lega (or “League”) party wants to renegotiate the deal made by the previous culture minister to loan all of Italy’s Leonardo’s to France, commenting: "Leonardo is Italian, he only died in France."
Bergonzoni, in her incredulity, suggested the deal was not in Italy’s best self-interest. “Leonardo was Italian, after all,” she told The Telegraph. “Why don't they loan us the Mona Lisa?”
France is planning to loan art to Italy in return for the Leonardos. It will lend some of its Raphaels to Rome's Scuderie del Quirinale museum for a 2020 exhibition commemorating the artist on the 500th anniversary of his death.
“Most of Raphael's works are already in Italy,” Bergonzoni said. “What's more, Paris says that only 'movable' paintings can come to us, without specifying which ones.”